We can all agree that data brokers are scary and evil, and that in this age they have feasted on our personal information like never before. Opting out is hard enough, so optoria 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 things, which is what Optery hopes to build.
I met Optery co-founder and CEO Lawrence Gentilello when he was launching on our Showcase Stage last September on Disrupt. The short introductions 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 luckily they reminded me just as they were about to add $2.7 million to their seed capital.
If you’re unfamiliar, these are services that reach dozens, in fact hundreds, of data brokers, companies that hoard whatever information they can find about you and sell it to whoever wants it. Getting yourself and your data out of them is often an exercise in frustration (although if you want to try, yael’s list is the best), so these companies offer opt-out as a service, usually for free.
Optery is no different there: you sign up for free, and an hour or two later, you receive a report telling you which brokers it found your data on. This report includes deep links and unsubscribe instructions, as well as screenshots. of the information itself so you know what they have. I tried it and it caught almost 50 more than the ones I had already deleted with DeleteMe.
You can then pay a monthly or yearly fee to have Optery automatically exclude you and then stay alert and delete your data whenever it shows up. It seemed to work great for me and the experience was solid: PCMag has a full review and comparison if you’re curious how it compares.
When I met with Gentilello, he explained that the arms race between consumers and data brokers has turned in favor of the latter. There are too many of them, hundreds of them, and they appear more regularly, and their exclusion rules vary widely in method and effectiveness.
“The unscrupulous will take any opportunity to add you back. If you don’t live in a state with a privacy law, you literally have no right to opt out, which is pretty sad and crazy in this day and age.” he said. “When we launched a year and a half ago, we covered 150 sites; now we covered about 240. If he had canceled, he would have lost like a hundred sites. So the ongoing maintenance model is really necessary if you want to stay away.”
While not everyone wants or needs this, it’s important for consumers to have one or two powerful options at their disposal. Gentilello noted that just before speaking to me, he had been on a call with a nonprofit that works with victims of domestic violence: “In those cases, those victims live in fear, trying to erase any evidence of where they moved; for them, it is a question of security”.
The company has taken a tech-first approach, creating a proprietary in-house search engine and crawler that evades data brokers’ anti-bot systems and finds information they try to keep away from Google and other big engines. That allows them to find more and also give before and after screenshots as proof.
But Gentilello said that’s just the first step in what he thinks 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 voracious appetite for data, and companies using whatever data they can get their hands on…it shouldn’t be like this in the future. Consumers need a platform where they can dictate what data these companies can and cannot use. They need to be able to tell companies, ‘the information that you have on me, that I own, I want to tell you what you can and can’t do with it.’ ”
To move towards that future platform, Optery just raised $2.7 million in new seed funding, bringing its total investment to $6 million. “This is giving us the power to build the team and this data management platform,” Gentilello said. The round was led by Bayhouse Capital, with participation from Global Founders Capital, Goodwater Capital, Pioneer Fund, Soma Capital, TRAC, Y Combinator and others.