We can all agree that data brokers are creepy and evil, and they have feasted on our personal information like never before in this era. Unsubscribing is hard enough — and that’s why Operation is there to help – but as the data economy continues to evolve, we may want a more proactive management platform to stay on top of it – which is what Optery hopes to build.
I met Optery’s co-founder and CEO, Lawrence Gentilello, when he was pitch on our Showcase Stage last September at Disrupt. The short presentations there were always teasers, and in Optery’s case, I wanted to know more about how they moved the ball past existing opt-out helpers like DeleteMe and PrivacyBee. Then I forgot (Disrupt is a lot) and thankfully they reminded me just as they were about to add $2.7 million to their seed funding.
If you’re not familiar, these are services that reach out to the dozens — hundreds, in fact — of data brokers, companies that hoard whatever data they can find on you and sell it to anyone who wants it. Getting yourself and your data off is often a frustrating exercise (but if you want to try it, Yael’s list is the best), so these companies offer opt-out as a service, usually in a freemium form.
Optery is no different there: you sign up for free and an hour or two later you get a report detailing which brokers your details were found. This report includes deep links and instructions on how to unsubscribe, as well as screenshots of the info itself so you know what they have. I tested it out and it caught almost 50 more than what I had already cleaned up with DeleteMe.
You can then pay a monthly or annual fee to have Optery automatically unsubscribe you and stay vigilant and retrieve your data when it appears there. It seemed to work really well for me and the experience was solid – PCMag has a full review and comparison if you’re curious how it compares.
When I caught up with Gentilello, he explained that the arms race between consumers and data brokers has tipped over in favor of the latter. There are simply too many of them – hundreds, with more popping up regularly – and their opt-out rules vary widely in method and effectiveness.
“The unscrupulous will take any opportunity to add you back in. If you don’t live in a state with a privacy law, you literally have no right to unsubscribe, which is pretty sad and crazy in this day and age,” he said . “When we started a year and a half ago, we had 150 sites; now we cover about 240. If you had canceled, you would have missed about a hundred sites. So the ongoing maintenance model is really necessary if you want to stay off it.”
While not everyone wants or needs this, it’s important that consumers have a powerful option or two available to them. Gentilello noted that just before speaking to me, he had spoken with a non-profit that works with victims of domestic violence: “In those cases, those victims live in fear and try to get rid of any evidence of where they have moved. to erase; for them it is a matter of safety.”
The company has taken a tech-first approach by creating a proprietary internal search engine and crawler that bypasses data brokers’ anti-bot systems and finds information they try to keep away from Google and other major search engines. That allows them to find more and also provide before and after screenshots as proof.
But Gentilello said this is just the first step of what he says could be an essential new category of service.
“What we’re building goes way beyond just removing your address and phone number from the internet — it’s a data rights management platform,” he said. “With the rise of AI and its ravenous appetite for data, and companies using all the data they can get their hands on…it shouldn’t be like that in the future. Consumers need a platform where they can control what data can and cannot be used by these companies. They need to be able to tell companies, “the information you have about me that I own, I want to tell you what you can and can’t do with it.” ”
To move into that future platform, Optery just raised $2.7 million in new seed funding, bringing the total investment to $6 million. “This gives us the strength to build out the team and this data management platform,” said Gentilello. The round was led by Bayhouse Capital, with participation from Global Founders Capital, Goodwater Capital, Pioneer Fund, Soma Capital, TRAC, Y Combinator and others.