Social aspect of refusing to give out your information

Offline services and clubs require a lot of personal information to use or join them. How does one get around that?

This is a less technical topic. Most (offline) services or clubs or memberships require you to give out a lot of your information to use or join them. For example a gym membership (usually) requires at least you bank information, current address, and age. When I joined my local gym they even wanted to take a picture of me for my account. I was able to get around that by simply asking nicely if the picture was actually necessary.
In most of these services, their customer or member information is handled digitally these days. This makes complete sense for them as a business or club to streamline information processing. However, from a personal privacy and security point of view, I am giving out a lot of my personal information to several parties. Therefore, increasing the points of failure since each and every one of them poses a threat for a data leak.
How to avoid giving out my information to (offline) services that I want to use, but these services require my information?

  • It can be awkward to ask if giving out only some of the information is required. It can give the impression that you are trying to hide something.
  • Most times the person asking for your information has no influence on the requirements
  • It has become the social norm to just give out your information blindly (e.g. your zip code at check out)

My threat model for this question is low. The goal is to practice (digital) informational minimalism with my personal information as a preventative measure. I don’t currently foresee any physical or social threats to the failure of solving this topic for myself. But this may be different for some people depending on the service used!


A lot of times these clubs and organisations ask for a lot of information, sometimes the best thing to do is ask politely whether the information is required and if so what it will be used for (why does the Gym need to know my phone number if they have my email for instance). Many times I have found that it isn’t actually required. When it comes to age / date of birth or post code I think it’s alright to lie because it doesn’t really matter.

Whenever someone asks for my address I just use my PO Box and Alias email address which can be generated on the fly. (SimpleLogin and Anonaddy). Depending on your country you can also use payment masking such as, Revolut or even PayPal. This allows you to set spending limits and removes the chance of your card’s details being leaked.

Hope some of this helps.

Being prepared and practicing is key to navigating around these circumstances.
Signing up for services online where you can control the data where your comfortable might help. In real life it can be difficult for some people to lie, a little too easy for others to lie. We have gotten use to filling out forms, ignoring the not required fields. You may have to create an account but that is what they are doing.

Doctor offices are as quick as a cop asking if your address on your Identification is correct. The doctors do not care where you live they just want to send you a bill. The gyms may easily accept a mailing address vs a physical address from your ID.

The practice and delivery of misinformation is important. I have cashed out at locations which ask for your phone number with every purchase. I have used the exact same number as the customer who just checked out and the cashier just showed me how fast she could 10 key the same number right back in the system. She either didn’t recall or care…

Personally I have two state issued drivers license which both expire the same year, with different address. This requires preparation.

Regarding the pictures.
I have some prescription glasses, normally I wear contacts. Sunglasses are a red flag but some glasses really will change your look. If you normally wear one style of clothes where something different for those times you know you are going to have to take a picture. Gym clothes like a hoodie make sense, better if your getting the picture taken in the winter and you can wear a huge coat.
These days cameras and security systems are all over. Choosing the gym that does not collect data is obvious.

Yeah, I already created a “second identity” to give out as (false) personal information, so I don’t have to come up with new info on the spot. But that really makes you feel like a criminal :smiley:
Unfortunately I did not find any services like a PO box in Germany. Let me know if I missed it. Alias with simple login is fantastic. Payment masking is also not available as far as I’m aware.

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I would agree that practicing helps.
Using an anonymous mailing address and payment masking would go a long way. I’m going to look into that again.
Luckily pictures are only rarely required, and I was able to get around it at the gym. However I did notice a similar problem with accounts at work. Especially as a new employee it can be awkward to decline using a photo for communication software.

I use this service and with membership in the USA I get masked credit cards, email and phone numbers.

I do not use the password manager.