Are you aware of the risks involved in sharing your personal data with data brokers? Did you know that they collect, analyze and sell your information to third parties including advertisers, government agencies, or even cybercriminals?
Data brokers are a type of data reseller that hire third parties to collect and sell data. Data brokerages go through rigorous quality control processes before they’re allowed to offer their services to consumers. Consumers who sign up with a data broker may not even know they’re doing so. Data brokers may use your information in ways that you find objectionable, but opting out from being targeted by one isn’t enough.
In this digital age, it is crucial to understand the potential threats associated with these intermediaries. This article sheds light on how data brokers operate and lists some effective methods for opting out of their services.
Definition and Use of Data Brokers
Data brokers are companies that collect, package, and sell information about consumers. This information may include a consumer’s name, address, age, gender, purchasing history, and more. Data brokers typically get this information from public records and other sources that are legal to access and sell.
While data brokers can be used for good (for example, to help businesses target their marketing or to prevent fraud), they also pose a risk to consumers’ privacy and security. For example, data brokers have been known to sell lists of people with specific characteristics (e.g., “Pet Owners in the U.S.” or “Diabetics over age 50”) that could be used for identity theft, fraud, or other malicious purposes.
To help protect your privacy and security, it’s important to understand how data brokers work and what they do with your personal information. It’s also important to know that you have the right to opt out of having your information collected and sold by data brokers.
How Data Brokers Collect Your Personal Information
When you sign up for a new service or buy something online, you are typically required to provide some personal information. This could include your name, address, phone number, email address, and credit card information. This information is then stored in the company’s database.
Data brokers are companies that collect this type of personal information from various sources and sell it to other companies. These companies then use this data for marketing purposes, such as targeted advertising and credit scoring. Data brokers often collect information without the knowledge or consent of the people involved. There are a few ways that data brokers can collect your personal information:
- Buying it from other companies: Data brokers can buy personal information from other companies, such as retailers, banks, and website operators.
- Collecting it from public records: Data brokers can also collect personal information from public records, such as property records and court filings.
- Gathering it from online sources: Data brokers can also gather personal information from online sources, such as social media websites and discussion forums.
- Creating their own databases: Data brokers can create their own databases by collecting personal information from various sources and combining it into a single database.
If you are concerned about data brokers collecting your personal information, there are a few things you can do to opt-out including contacting the data broker and request that your information be removed from their database.
Risks Associated with Data Brokerage
Data brokers make money by collecting information about you. Data brokers rarely give consumers the opportunity to see the information they have collected about them. Nor do they usually give consumers the opportunity to correct inaccuracies in their data. As a result, databrokers’ profiles of consumers can be riddled with errors.
Even if the information data brokers have collected about you is accurate, you might not want them selling it. For example, a data broker might sell your name to a company that sells funeral services, even if you are not sick or dying. Or a data broker might sell your name to a company that targets expectant mothers with advertisements for baby products—whether or not you are pregnant or even planning to have children.
Some consumer advocates have raised concerns that data brokers may violate consumer privacy rights. They argue that because data brokers use personal information to create “consumer reports” that are sold to businesses, they should be subject to the same restrictions as credit reporting agencies.
Strategies for Opting Out from Data Brokers
Data brokers are not easy to find. They’re not easy to understand, either. And they’re even more difficult to opt out of or in with — you’d have better luck getting an elephant through a keyhole than trying to get into these companies’ databases with your personal information.
How to opt out of data brokers? Opting out is a good start, but it’s not an effective tool for removing all traceable references to you from the web. For example, if you opt out of being tracked by cookies and do not turn off Flash cookies (which allow third parties to track your web browsing), then there may be some websites where your browsing history will still appear in their databases.
So, you can opt out yourself by full manual action. The alternate option is to use a subscription-based privacy service that targets a lot of brokers who will monitor the major data brokers and process file-removal requests.
Using a subscription based service is an effective method to opt-out of data brokers. But, opting out of your personal information being collected is only one part of protecting your online privacy. Other steps you can take include using a VPN to encrypt all internet traffic between your computer and the website you’re visiting. This ensures that no one can see what sites you visit or even read the contents of messages sent over email or social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Limiting to publish data yourself on the social networks will also limit the future risks.