Know which site sold your data

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 15, 2016
Updated • Dec 15, 2016

Whenever you sign up for a service or site on the Internet, there is a chance that your data will be used by the company operating the service, or sold.

Most companies ask permissions before they add you to their newsletter. Some sneaky ones add you without option to remove yourself during signup in hope that you will forget to cancel the subscription afterwards.

It gets worse when your data is sold. Once in the system, it is there for all time and there is a chance that your email account will receive regular spam emails until it is closed.

While you cannot do much about it, you can at least try your best to understand which company or site sold your data in first place.

Option 1: Different email accounts, or aliases

There are two options for this. The first is to use different email accounts for online accounts. Besides using different accounts, you may also make use of aliases instead. Major email providers such as Outlook or Gmail support aliases.

I'm not a huge fan of the alias system that has you add +whatever to your email username. If my email is [email protected], I could use aliases like martin+walmar[email protected] to identify the site or service that sold my data.

This works only however if the spammers are not processing the email list before sending out spam. It is easy enough to remove any +whatever characters from emails to avoid sending to aliases altogether.

You may also use so called temporary email services, but those only for unimportant accounts.

Option 2: Make use of custom middle names

email spam source

I read about this method on Reddit the other day and like it a lot (thanks Ilev). Some sites have a middle name field when you sign up. Instead of not filling it out, or filling it out with your real middle name, you could add the sites name, or another unique identifier there.

So, if I sign up for an account on a site, my name would be Martin Sitename Brinkmann. That site, or any other service the data is sold to, would usually use the full name when it addresses you in emails.

Emails would begin with Dear Martin Sitename Brinkmann. Looking at Sitename, you would know immediately where the data originated from.

Caveats: The system has some caveats. First, this may not work for services that require payments or identification. Payments may get rejected if the name does not match, and you may not be able to identify yourself if the name does not match yours.

Second, this won't work if the middle name is not listed as a field during sign up and afterwards, and won't work if the middle name is ignored when emails are sent out.

One workaround for that is to add the middle name to the name field. If you only get first and last name fields, you would add it to the first name field, and if you only get one name field, you would add it there.

There is still a chance that companies will detect this and remove your account. Most won't however as emails are usually processed automatically.

Now Read: How to fight spam, the final guide

Know which site sold your data
Article Name
Know which site sold your data
Here is a quick tip on how to find out which Internet site, service or company sold your data resulting in you getting spam in your email inbox.
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  1. ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Doesn’t Windows 8 know that www. or http:// are passe ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Well it is a bit difficulty to distinguish between domains and files for instance.

    2. Leonidas Burton said on September 4, 2023 at 4:51 am

      I know a service made by google that is similar to Google bookmarks.

  2. VioletMoon said on August 16, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    @Ashwin–Thankful you delighted my comment; who knows how many “gamers” would have disagreed!

  3. Karl said on August 17, 2023 at 10:36 pm


    The comments section under this very article (3 comments) is identical to the comments section found under the following article:

    Not sure what the issue is, but have seen this issue under some other articles recently but did not report it back then.

  4. Anonymous said on August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Omg a badge!!!
    Some tangible reward lmao.

    It sucks that redditors are going to love the fuck out of it too.

  5. Scroogled said on August 25, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    With the cloud, there is no such thing as unlimited storage or privacy. Stop relying on these tech scums. Purchase your own hardware and develop your own solutions.

    1. lollmaoeven said on August 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

      This is a certified reddit cringe moment. Hilarious how the article’s author tries to dress it up like it’s anything more than a png for doing the reddit corporation’s moderation work for free (or for bribes from companies and political groups)

  6. El Duderino said on August 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Almost al unlmited services have a real limit.

    And this comment is written on the dropbox article from August 25, 2023.

  7. John G. said on August 26, 2023 at 1:29 am

    First comment > @ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    For the God’s sake, fix the comments soon please! :[

  8. Kalmly said on August 26, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Yes. Please. Fix the comments.

  9. Kim Schmidt said on September 3, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    With Google Chrome, it’s only been 1,500 for some time now.

    Anyone who wants to force me in such a way into buying something that I can get elsewhere for free will certainly never see a single dime from my side. I don’t even know how stupid their marketing department is to impose these limits on users instead of offering a valuable product to the paying faction. But they don’t. Even if you pay, you get something that is also available for free elsewhere.

    The algorithm has also become less and less savvy in terms of e.g. English/German translations. It used to be that the bot could sort of sense what you were trying to say and put it into different colloquialisms, which was even fun because it was like, “I know what you’re trying to say here, how about…” Now it’s in parts too stupid to translate the simplest sentences correctly, and the suggestions it makes are at times as moronic as those made by Google Translations.

    If this is a deep-learning AI that learns from users’ translations and the phrases they choose most often – which, by the way, is a valuable, moneys worthwhile contribution of every free user to this project: They invest their time and texts, thereby providing the necessary data for the AI to do the thing as nicely as they brag about it in the first place – alas, the more unprofessional users discovered the translator, the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, the greater the aggregate of linguistically illiterate users has become, and the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, as it now learns the drivel of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, which is why I now get their Mickey Mouse language as suggestions: the inane language of people who can barely spell the alphabet, it seems.

    And as a thank you for our time and effort in helping them and their AI learn, they’ve lowered the limit from what was once 5,000 to now 1,500…? A big “fuck off” from here for that! Not a brass farthing from me for this attitude and behaviour, not in a hundred years.

  10. Anonymous said on September 28, 2023 at 8:19 am

    When will you put an end to the mess in the comments?

  11. RIP said on September 28, 2023 at 9:36 am

    Ghacks comments have been broken for too long. What article did you see this comment on? Reply below. If we get to 20 different articles we should all stop using the site in protest.

    I posted this on [] so please reply if you see it on a different article.

    1. RIP said on September 28, 2023 at 11:01 am

      Comment redirected me to [] which seems to be the ‘real’ article it is attached to

  12. RIP said on September 28, 2023 at 10:48 am

    Comment redirected me to [] which seems to be the ‘real’ article it is attached to

  13. Mystique said on September 28, 2023 at 12:13 pm

    Article Title: Reddit enforces user activity tracking on site to push advertising revenue
    Article URL:

    No surprises here. This is just the beginning really. I cannot see a valid reason as to why anyone would continue to use the platform anymore when there are enough alternatives fill that void.

  14. justputthispostanywhere said on September 29, 2023 at 3:59 am

    I’m not sure if there is a point in commenting given that comments seem to appear under random posts now, but I’ll try… this comment is for

    My temporary “solution”, if you can call it that, is to use a VPN (Mullvad in my case) to sign up for and access Reddit via a European connection. I’m doing that with pretty much everything now, at least until the rest of the world catches up with GDPR. I don’t think GDPR is a magical privacy solution but it’s at least a first step.

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