Have you ever wondered what happens to your data after entering it into a website? Or where that information goes, and who can see it? Chances are, data brokers are collecting your data. There are as many as 4,000 data broking firms in the globe, and the sector is estimated to be worth $200 billion annually.
Data brokers buy and sell your private information that you make available online. They compile information about you from various sources to create a comprehensive profile that they resell to get enormous profit. But why is it happening in the first place?
This article will walk you through what are data brokers, types of data brokers, source and data being collected by data brokers, how does data brokers work, and finally how cay you protect your data from data brokers if you wish.
What are Data Brokers?
Data brokers are companies that collect and sell data about individuals. They purchase raw data from government agencies, credit bureaus, and other organizations, then aggregate it into various profiles for sale.
These profiles can include purchasing habits, financial history, and health records. Data brokers use this information to create detailed digital profiles of users, allowing them to target ads or offers accurately.
It’s important to remember that these companies are collecting your data without your consent, so it’s essential to stay informed about how they operate and what protections you have in place.
Types of Data Brokers:
Data brokers collect your personal information including names, addresses, emails, browsing habits, health information, and credit card numbers. Based on the purpose for which they collect your personal information for, there are the 5 main types of data brokers:
- People Actively Looking for Information Online
- Fraud Detection Brokers
Banks and cell phone companies frequently utilize the services of data brokers that specialize in fraud detection. Before approving a loan, for instance, banks often verify the veracity of the customer’s information.
- Promotional Activities Brokers
These data brokers collect information on consumers such as age, geography, education level, income, web browsing habits, product preferences, and purchase history to deliver more relevant advertisements.
- Brokers that Avoid Dangerous Situations
Some companies will look into a client’s past to determine if they are a good candidate for a high-interest, high-risk loan or a low-interest, low-risk loan. If you have a history of going to the gym and leading a healthy lifestyle, you can reduce your life insurance costs.
- Providers of Financial Market Data
Credit history and the possibility of loan failure are two of the most sought-after pieces of information by financial information brokers. They also aid in establishing an applicant’s bona fides to cut down on identity theft.
Financial institutions and insurance providers might use this information to charge you more for insurance or turn down your loan application altogether. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are the three most prominent companies in this industry.
What Type of Data is Being Collected by Data Brokers?
Data brokers collect the following type of information:
- Full names
- House number and Street Address
- Phone Numbers
- Email Addresses
- Age range and sex
- In other words, your SSN
- Cash flow
- Properties in the Financial Sector (such as real estate).
- A record of purchases
- Tracked websites you’ve visited before
A Few Primary Source of Data:
Data brokers collect information from various sources, including public records, surveys, and social media. They can also purchase data from third parties like market research firms or consumers.
Public records include voting registration, property ownership records, court documents, marriage licenses, and driver’s license information. Surveys involve collecting demographic information such as age, gender, income level, and other personal characteristics.
Social media is a treasure trove of data that can be used for marketing purposes – things like likes and dislikes on Facebook to better target ads or even location check-ins on Twitter or Foursquare, which can be used for geographical targeting. Lastly, the most obvious source – is data purchased directly from consumers in exchange for rewards or discounts.
What Data Brokers Do With the Collected Data?
Data brokers collect data from various sources, such as surveys, public records, and other online behaviors. They then use advanced algorithms to analyze the data and turn it into insights they can sell to third parties.
These insights provide companies with invaluable customer information which they can use to target specific demographics or develop marketing strategies. Data brokers also compile comprehensive profiles using their collected data, giving companies an in-depth view of their customers.
This allows them to create tailored advertising campaigns that are more effective and efficient. Additionally, data brokers help businesses reduce risk by automatically identifying potentially fraudulent activities and preventing customer identity theft.
One such incident featured a data broker that charged an advertiser $79 per 1,000 contacts for the personal details of people with problems including rape, alcoholism, and erectile dysfunction.
Though extreme cases like this arise, the vast majority of the time, the data collected will be of considerably lower sensitivity. They will consist mainly of categories that reveal a person’s interests or way of life.
How Hoes Data Brokers Work?
Data brokers may or may not get the data in an unethical manner, notwithstanding the questionable nature of their business operations. They may look on the internet for information that is open to the public on users of social networking sites and can also obtain it from businesses who have acquired the data on their own.
The working of data brokers usually involves:
- Collecting the information by crawling the internet for public information resources,
- Buying it from other companies
- Selling this information to relevant industries.
The data brokerage industry generates over $200 billion revenue yearly through this process.
Largest Data Brokers Companies:
The most significant data brokers in the world are companies like Acxiom, Experian, and CoreLogic. These companies collect data from various sources – both online and offline – and use it to create detailed profiles of consumers.
Marketers, insurers, banks, credit bureaus, and other businesses can then use this information to make decisions about customers or potential customers.
Data brokers serve as middlemen between data owners (people who possess data) and data users (those who wish to use the data). By aggregating massive amounts of data from multiple sources, these companies provide an invaluable service to businesses worldwide.
They enable targeted marketing campaigns, allow insurers to offer more accurate risk assessment services, and help banks determine the creditworthiness of applicants. In addition, data brokers can provide valuable insights into consumer trends, allowing companies to tailor products and services to meet customer needs better.
How Can You Protect Your Data From Data Brokers?
Because of the growth of the digital era, data brokers are more common than ever before, and the activities that they engage in may be highly invasive. You will be relieved to know that there are specific actions you can take to safeguard your data against them.
Following are the actions you can take:
Exclude Yourself From Data Broker Databases
The vast majority of data brokers provide an online option for customers to delete their personal information from their databases.
It is vital to remember that this approach cannot eliminate all traces of your name or any other identifying characteristics; nonetheless, it will significantly cut down on the quantity of information available about you in these databases.
Utilize Securer Technologies
Utilizing technology that improves one’s level of privacy, such as virtual private networks, is another alternative (VPNs). Because a virtual private network (VPN) encrypts all the traffic that travels across your network, it becomes difficult for data brokers to monitor and utilize your data.
In addition, the quantity of data that websites gather about you can be restricted by the settings of your browser, which you can change.
Perform Routine Audits
It’s a good idea to perform routine audits of the privacy policies of the businesses you collaborate with regularly. Most of the time, these companies will include wording in their rules that authorizes them to share user data with other parties, like data brokers.
Check the Privacy Safeguards of Organization
Last but not the least, you should check the privacy policies of any organization you are entrusting with your personal information.
You can defend yourself against unwelcome data brokering operations and regain some control over your personal information by following these procedures, which will help you protect yourself. Educate yourself and make a well-informed decision on the best way to safeguard your data.
The information that you make online is of great benefit to data brokerage companies, but can be of great harm to you. While data brokers are working legally to collect your information, you might not be at ease knowing that the organizations can access your activities whenever they want to.
So, to protect yourself from falling into any scams or data leakage threats, it’s important that you forget thinking about how do data brokers work- whether legally or illegally,and focus on taking necessary steps to protect yourself from future cybercrimes or identity thefts.