In January, a new law gave consumers the power to stop companies collecting their personal information. The law, known as the California Consumer Privacy Act (or the CCPA), can be a powerful tool for privacy, but it comes with a catch: Consumers who want to exercise their CCPA rights must contact every data broker individually, and there are more than a hundred of them. But now they have an easier option.
On Thursday, a startup called DoNotPay unveiled a service it calls Digital Health that automates the data-deletion process. Priced at $3 a month, the service will contact more than 100 data brokers on your behalf and demand they delete your and your family’s personal information. It will also show you the types of data the brokers have collected—such as phone number or location info—and even initiate legal proceedings if the firms fail to comply. The monthly fee also gives subscribers access to DoNotPay’s other automated avenging services, like appealing parking tickets in any city, claiming compensation for poor in-flight Wi-Fi, and Robo Revenge, which sues robocallers.
The data deletion service is the latest brainchild of Joshua Browder, who launched DoNotPay as a way to fight parking tickets when he was a 19-year-old at Stanford University. The startup has been hailed in the media as a time-saving “robot lawyer” and has reportedly saved consumers over $4 million in fines.
The technology that underlies DoNotPay’s parking ticket and CCPA services are the same: bots. The bots send emails on customers’ behalf and also reply to any follow-up requests companies might send back.
In the case of companies who receive a CCPA data deletion request, they might ask for additional information such as a photo or a birthdate. In such cases, DoNotPay’s bots will contact the customer for the additional data, and then use the new information to respond to any other data brokers that make similar requests. And while the CCPA is a state law that technically only covers California residents, many companies are acting as if it applies country-wide—and, in any case, Browder says DoNotPay uses a California P.O. Box when it reaches out to companies.
Browder also emphasizes that DoNotPay will never sell consumer data itself, and that the company’s own terms of service allow it to be sued if it ever does. He also believes data brokers do no good for consumers.
“There’s no reason an average person wants one of these privacy brokers to have their data,” he says.