What Information Do Data Brokers Have on Consumers?
In today’s digital world, it should come as no surprise that the five biggest global companies don’t sell oil. Instead, they harvest and sell data. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple all make billions from dealing with our data. They are the largest data brokers in the world, but there are many more out there.
Most consumers are blissfully unaware of the many small data brokers operating under the radar. Some operate on the very edge of the law; others ignore the law entirely. These brokers either harvest the data themselves or aggregate it from official sources, such as public databases online and offline.
Data is a Lucrative Industry
Data brokerage is a very lucrative industry, one that generates around $200 billion every year.
Everything we do online and offline is recorded somewhere. The internet is a wonderful resource, but we leave an extensive digital footprint all over the web without even realizing it. Each time we buy something online, visit a website, or add something new to our social feeds, we leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs.
The information data brokers look for names, addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers, age, gender, income, occupation, education, etc. This provides ample opportunities for them to piece together a detailed picture of us and our life.
Data brokers collect a vast amount of data. If you use the internet, you can be certain data brokers have a digital database of information nuggets with your name on them.
- Social media is a rich resource, with some people posting virtually everything about their life on their Facebook feed.
- Online purchases also provide rich pickings, from the types of purchases we make to our credit card information.
- Then we have government databases; these are vast receptacles of information that hold information such as birth certificates, census data, voter registration details, drivers’ license records, and more.
- Even your web browser history is worth something. After all, companies can use your browsing history to target you with bespoke advertising – something Google specializes in.
As you can see, the more information a data broker has on you, the more complete the picture is. All this information is valuable, but many data brokers combine individual pieces of data to create user segments.
For example, a data broker might create a database of women aged between 18 and 45, who have at least one child aged 0-5. This would then be sold on to companies that want to market to this specific demographic.
Check Your Data
It’s easy to check what information is out there. There are many sites that allow you to search by name, phone number, and address. Try one and see what results show up. You’ll probably be shocked at how much data there is on you in the public domain. Don’t panic, however, as reputable sites let you remove your data from their databases. For example, use this link to have your profile removed from Nuwber.
It’s a scary world out there. Consumers have very few rights and privacy laws only apply to healthcare providers and credit bureaus. In addition, most consumers don’t have the tools needed to expunge the data held by brokers.
The good news is that in one state at least, there is now legislation in place to protect consumers by enhancing their right to privacy. You can read more about that here.
Be mindful of your personal data when you surf the net, make online purchases, and go about your everyday life. Your personal data is a valuable commodity, so treat it as such.