With many thanks to Dimitri Shelest, Founder and CEO of OneRep, Aviva Zacks of Safety Detectives now knows how to remove her personal information from all people-search sites.
Safety Detectives: What motivated you to start your company?
Dimitri Shelest: Before 2015, when I was working with people-search sites as an SEO consultant, I was astonished by the volumes of personal data these companies owned and published on regular people. I also saw how many people wanted to remove their information from these sites, while witnessing first-hand how difficult the people-search sites made it for anyone to “opt-out.”
Doing research on this data removal process, I came to find that every site had (and still has) its own overly complicated steps, putting a huge burden on the individual in order to opt out.
When further looking into whether services exist to help people remove their data from these sites, I saw that there were only a few private consultants and small firms that did. They were very expensive because they spent days doing the job manually. Only top-tier executives and celebrities could afford these services. And, even then, removal was only done from a fraction of the people-search sites.
This was when I decided to create my own company that would provide the same services at the price of two cups of coffee, making it affordable for everyone. We developed a system that removed personal data 100% automatically. The automation also allowed us to remove from a much broader swath of sites. Today, OneRep removes private records from 100+ people-search sites—practically all that exists. We got our first customers just hours after launch! That’s when we knew that our approach was really what people wanted.
SD: What do you love about working in cybersecurity?
DS: The feeling that you are making a truly necessary and valuable service inspires. When you read positive customer reviews, you realize that you are doing something right. Personal data is a very sensitive tool that cybercriminals use to cause real harm to people whose data is publicly available on the Internet. We understand that our service is a shield in the hands of our users, which makes them feel safe. And this is highly motivating for our entire team!
SD: What is your company’s flagship product?
SD: Removing personal data from data broker websites. There is still a lot of work for us to do as new people-search sites spring up like mushrooms. Our team is on top of that as we ensure monitoring and removal from new websites. At the same time, we see a huge increase in the volume of user personal data on the Internet. Every day brings new challenges and we are working to expand the functionality of our platform in order to turn it into a universal tool for protecting personal data online. It’s too early to talk about new features, as they are still under development and testing. But we promise that your team and your readers will be the first to learn about our new products and be able to test them soon after launch.
SD: How does your company stay competitive in a world filled with cybersecurity companies?
DS: Most other players who provide data removal services have divergent offerings to support; they are not specialists. Whereas we have a singular focus: empowering people to stay private online. Lining up behind this mission and reflecting it in everything we do allows us to be the best at it.
We stay on top of data broker sites and their changing opt-out practices; we are constantly improving our algorithms for searching, matching, and removing private information—and we have the foremost technical experts to do the job.
Another important part of empowering people means we put a lot of effort into educating our users about protecting their data. We developed free detailed instructions on how to remove personal information from all people-search sites. Thanks to these DIY guides, anyone can remove themselves from the sites that publish their information.
Lastly, we’re proud of our support team who are always there to address user queries and give privacy advice.
I feel our 5-star rating on Google speaks for itself!
SD: What are the worst cyberthreats out there today?
DS: A very serious threat and one of the fastest-growing crimes is identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that tens of millions of Americans have their identities stolen each year. Using publicly available personal data and fairly simple social engineering tricks, bad actors can get access to your online identity and start using it as they like—from opening credit lines in your name to using your identity to apply for social benefits and tax reductions. The harm done as a result of a stolen identity can be both financial and psychological. People have to take steps to freeze their credit; they lose their credit history and spend months restoring access to essential accounts. In general, identity theft costs the victim money, time, and peace.
Another genuine threat capable of ruining lives is cyber bullying/cyber harassment. It can lead to high rates of depression and anxiety, affect mental health, and even cause physical symptoms like pain, fatigue, and sleeping problems.
I must also say that our customer stories always teach us that there is no such thing as a pure cyber or online threat, especially when it comes to human privacy. A crime that is committed against a person online always impacts them in real life.
SD: How is the pandemic changing cybersecurity for the future?
DS: To be honest, the pandemic has blown up the privacy problem. People are spending more time on the Internet, which results in more personal data getting online. This is an inevitable evolution as our lives become increasingly digital. Our team is thinking about this a lot and, of course, we’re taking steps and continuously planning for the changes to come.