How Much Are You Worth (To Data Brokers)?

Posted by Stefanie Kober Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:06:00 GMT



Have you ever stopped to think how much of your personal information is freely available on the web? There is a myriad of information that people can find about you on the Internet, even if you put your Facebook privacy settings up to the highest level.

What are Data Brokers?
Data aggregators, also called data brokers, are aggregators of “big data” information focused on the consumer – you. They compile and build up as much information on you as possible, primarily without your knowledge. Data brokers garner information about you all the time: anytime you use the Internet, open an email, make a purchase, use a program, engage in social media, run a search – you get the idea.

How You Look to a Data Broker
Your consumer profile is categorized with jargon labels and sold off to companies without your knowledge (or authorization). Examples of profile category names include “financially challenged”, “expecting parents,” and “African-American families.”  “Rural everlasting” describes single men and women over the age of 66 with “low educational attainment and low net worths.”
These categories sum up data drawn from three sources:

Volunteered data
This is self-reported data from mail, telephone, online surveys, and questionnaires, which typically includes demographic information and lifestyle interests.

Public records
Federal, state and local government records are rich sources of demographic and contact information. Specific sources include: federal government lists, voter records, court records, driver’s license data and professional licenses. 

Enterprise data
Detailed accounts of customers’ purchasing history and interests are procured from consumer information obtained from online enterprises, financial institutions, retailers, publishers, and other data compilers. Sources generally include loyalty programs, social media, magazine publishers, and online cookies.

The data broker industry is complex, with several layers of data brokers providing data to one another. Each data broker source may provide only a few data elements about a consumer’s activities; however, data brokers can assemble all of these data elements together to form a more detailed composite of the consumer's life.

But Why?
The only goal of data brokers is to compile as much information about you as possible, and sell your personal profile to third parties, therefore making money off your personal information. The more information they have on you, the better and more profitable it is to them and their clients. Companies then use that information for marketing, decision making, pricing, evaluations and numerous other things involving you. This creates a threat to your privacy and increases your vulnerability.

The Bigger Picture
While the data broker industry is large, with data brokers collecting and storing billions of data elements covering almost every consumer in the U.S., very few people know of its existence. Stay tuned for our upcoming blog, where we shall discuss the implications of data broker industry.
 

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