Dear political campaigns: Just leave me the &%#*! alone

You may not be able to stop political junk mail, spam, or robocalls, but you can slow them down. Here's how.


* Provide the bare minimum of information when you register to vote. This information is required to be public by law, and there are good reasons for that. But a lot of forms ask for information that isn’t strictly mandatory (like your email address), so don’t volunteer information that isn’t required. Consider using a PO Box as an address, if you don’t mind traveling out of your precinct to vote.

* Use tools like Google Voice to screen your calls, so you can head off robocalls before they really start to annoy you, says Shaun Dakin, principal of Dakin & Associates and CEO of the National Political Do Not Contact Registry, Stop Political Calls. Dakin says more than 500,000 people have signed up for his site, which provides the names and numbers of those who’ve asked to opt out of calls to any politician who requests it. (So far only a handful have.)

* If you want to volunteer or contribute to a candidate, use the old anti-spam trick and create a disposable email address for that purpose and no other. Use a free online phone number too instead of your personal number, if you can. That will make it harder for campaigns to tie your consumer data to its records, and it will also allow you to track who else they shared your data with.

* Opt out of consumer databases maintained by massive data mining companies like LexisNexis, Intelius, and Acxiom. They provide a lot of the information the campaigns are collecting. You can usually find instructions on how to do this in each company’s privacy policy. They make this process deliberately onerous to discourage you from doing it, but it is possible.

(Last July the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus sent letters to nine of the biggest data miners, asking them what they know about us and when they knew it. We’re all still waiting for their responses.)

* You can ask your state to suppress or mask your voter registration information, which will keep it out of the data sold to campaigns by companies like Aristotle.

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