Stop. Giving. Away. Your. Data.

How To Begin to Stop Websites From Capturing Your Info

David Koff


Photo by Muukii on Unsplash

The Background

Today’s installment is all about the traps — usually hiding in plain sight — that tech companies use to help us part with more of our privacy and security than we should. We often overlook these seemingly benign requests, so let’s learn how to better identify them so that we can start saying “No!” when we see these requests, OK?

The “Give Us Your Phone Number” Method

Websites — especially “free” social media and networking sites — rely on generating their profit by selling your data to advertisers. It’s a very lucrative business, something I talked about at length in Episode 15. That episode was focused on how the Google ecosystem works. I also talked about this concept in Episode 17, which detailed how the beanie-wearing CEO of Twitter had his own Twitter account hijacked.

What It Looks Like
Companies have gotten very clever at selling you on why they need access to your phone number. Here are two of the more common reasons provided: security & notifications…

Two examples of an “innocent” request for more of your data.

There! Do you see? If you just give us your cellphone number then we can “keep your account secure” or “reset your password easily”.

How It Works
When you willingly give any website your actual cellphone number, the company owning that website now has extra capabilities and data about you that they don’t need and shouldn’t have:

  • The ability to message or call you. If a company has your phone number, then it’s only a matter of time before they use it.
  • The ability to target ads to you based on your area code. If your cellphone area code is 212, then either you live in New York City or you once did. That information is important to companies who wish to advertise to you.
  • The knowledge of which company provides your cellphone service. If you give me your cellphone number, this website can identify your cell service provider. If I know…



David Koff

I’m a tech writer who focuses on digital privacy & security. Subscribe to my easy-to-read tech newsletter to learn more!