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In 2023, protecting your digital privacy is more crucial than ever. But protecting that privacy is not easy. In fact, it feels like every day it gets harder and harder to do so. Data brokers and criminals all over the world constantly purchase and redistribute your information in an effort to make money, and they often do so without you knowing.
There are ways to remove a lot of this data manually, but with hundreds of data brokers and thousands of places your data could be, doing so is quite labor-intensive. Plus, this isn't a one and done sort of thing. Removing your private data manually is something you will need to do at least one or two times a year to assure none of your information leaks back out there. That is where a solution like Incogni comes in.
What is Incogni?
Incogni offers a data removal service that crawls many of these data broker sites and removes your information on your behalf. Think of it as having a personal assistant that does only one thing: it attempts to remove your private data from the internet, so you don't have to.
Incogni claims to have hundreds of various data brokers ready to contact for your data removal, and they use the CCPA, UK-GDPR, GDPR, and PIPEDA privacy regulations to do so. Unfortunately, that means the service is only available for residents of the US, UK, EU, Switzerland, and Canada. So, if you live outside one of these regions, you'll need to either find a different service or do the heavy lifting yourself.
It's also worth noting that Incogni is owned and operated by the Netherlands-based VPN service provider Surfshark. Not only that, but Surfshark merged with NordVPN in early 2022, making Incogni formally related to the latter as well. And though Surfshark--and in turn Incogni--fall under the same ownership as NordVPN, both entities operate independently by "relying on separate infrastructures and different product development plans."
Though Surfshark isn't my favorite VPN (that honor belongs to IVPN), it's still better than most options out there and even underwent a third party no-logs audit earlier this year. This isn't a review of Surfshark, so I won't dive any deeper into the VPN service here, but Incogni's ownership is something to keep in mind moving forward.
How does Incogni work?
Instead of having employees do the work manually, Incogni have an automated solution to data removal, making it more efficient and less laborious. And once you sign up for Incogni, they handle all interactions and follow-ups with data brokers.
That means you can walk away knowing your data is being removed for you without your intervention. Incogni will even periodically email you updates about your data removal, so you can stay up to date without manually checking in on your account.
Incogni is certainly not the first company to offer services like this. Well-known competitors like DeleteMe have a similar offering, but in my eyes, there are two key differences: the cost of the service, and the dashboard you use to interact with it once you're a paying customer. We will talk about cost more in a minute, but I'd quickly like to touch on the dashboard.
How do you interact with Incogni?
Interacting with Incogni is fairly simple. After you log in and set up your account, you will be greeted with a bare-bones dashboard and a tutorial walking you through it.
Here, you'll see the total number of data removal requests Incogni has sent thus far. This includes how many of those requests are still in progress, how many have been successfully completed, and how many have been added to suppression lists. You'll also see a basic activity log that lists out the most recent changes on your account.
Incogni also provides a detailed view of these requests if this isn't enough information for you. Here, you can see more information about how compliant the data brokers are, how severe the information they have is, whether the data removal request has been respected or not, and so on. You can also sort the information between private or public databases, compliance score, severity score, and/or request status.
At first glance, Incogni's dashboard seems quite powerful. But after using it for a while, you start to realize how underwhelming it really is. Though the dashboard benefits from a simple and easy to navigate UI, a few more power user tools or even better visualization would be nice.
One thing I'd like to see are graphs and/or charts, so users can have an even better idea of what's going on. This can include what types of data is exposed, what data Incogni has had removed, what percentage of the data is severe, etc.
I'd also like to see a way for users to interact with or add to the data removal process. What I mean by this is that DeleteMe, for example, will occasionally ask the user various questions based on the data DeleteMe have found. This helps refine the data removal process and is something Incogni is lacking from what I can tell.
Incogni also lacks a way to submit custom removal requests. For example, if users stumble upon a data source it doesn't look like Incogni have found, there's no way to submit that to Incogni for removal. The only solution at that point is to request the data removal manually via whatever channels that data source offers.
Overall, the email reports, basic dashboard, and detailed view offer enough information for the user to know the Incogni is removing all the data they possibly can. This is especially true if you are a "set it and forget it" kind of person. But the lack of power user tools, data refinement, and visualization leave me personally a bit wanting.
How much does Incogni cost?
Another benefit Incogni has over something like DeleteMe is price. No matter how you break it down or what the pros and cons may be, Incogni offers you much more bang for your buck than the competition.
You can get Incogni for as little as $6.49 a month compared to DeleteMe, which starts at $10.75 per month. Both of those prices are when paying for one full year, so that would be a bulk payment of $77.88 and $129 respectively, giving Incogni the edge by more than $50.
DeleteMe can be had for as little as $8.71 per month when signing up for two years at a time, but that is still not as cheap as Incogni. That lump sum would be a whopping $209, which is quite the pill to swallow for many of us.
Admittedly, DeleteMe offers a few more bells and whistles for that money, and users can easily expand their account to include more people or email addresses, but that all comes at an even bigger price tag.
When all is said and done, for one person and one email address, Incogni's price can't be beat. And, if you want to give Incogni a go, but you don't want to fork out the nearly $78 for a full year, you can even sign up for a monthly plan of $12.99.
Final thoughts and recommendations
Writing an honest review for a service like Incogni is quite difficult. Its success is hard to measure. Though I've been using it for about two months, it really must be used for many more months or even years at a time before someone can really judge its efficacy.
That being said, I have had a fairly good amount of success with the service thus far. I enjoy the user interface, signing up was easy enough, and I haven't had to think about it more than necessary.
And though I wish it had more power user tools and better visualization, Incogni's competitive advantage is that you don't really need to think much about the service once you've set it up.
For the price, I definitely recommend Incogni. Especially if you get the 50% off by signing up for one year at a time.
On the other hand, I don't recommend setting up Incogni, walking away, and just being reckless with your data moving forward. You should still be careful with whom and what companies you share your personal information. Continue to do your best to understand your threat model, and remember that tools like VPNs, Tor, pseudonyms, email aliases, etc. should all still be critical parts of your workflow.
In the end, reputable services like Incogni can be a huge help when trying to reclaim your privacy, but if you don't also protect your information yourself, it's all for naught. Think of Incogni as a personal digital privacy assistant on your journey and not the endgame, and you should be good.