How You Can Protect Your Own Data from Data Brokers

Posted by Stefanie Kober Tue, 09 Dec 2014 11:07:00 GMT

In one of our previous blog posts, we discussed various tactics and motives of data brokers. Data brokers obtain large amounts of detailed and specific information about customers, analyze it to make inferences about consumers, and share this information with clients in a variety of industries. All of this activity occurs behind the scenes, without the consumers’ knowledge. What’s at risk? How can you protect your privacy?

Storage of Customer Data

Some data brokers store the entire dataset indefinitely, except if it is prohibited by contract. For some products, data brokers report that they still need to keep the older data. For instance, they explain that even if a customer’s address is outdated, the consumer’s address history must be kept so as to verify the consumer’s identity. Storing data about customers indefinitely is a security risk. Identity thieves and other criminals may be attracted to the collection of consumer profiles that illustrate a clear picture of a consumer’s behavior over time, therefore enabling them to predict passwords, challenge questions, or other authentication credentials.

Protecting Your Identity
Last May, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published a detailed report on all the information that private data brokers have collected on you. The FTC report points out the fundamental lack of transparency in data broker industry practices. In their report, the FTC called for better consumer access to personal data held by data brokers. The FTC also recommended that brokers should publicly identity themselves and describe how they collect and sell personal information. Other possible regulations include allowing consumers to opt out of being tracked, both online and offline. Undoubtedly, these recommendations are a step in the right direction, but so far no legislation had been passed to regulate what data brokers can and cannot do.

If you would like to remove your information from data broker databases, you can directly contact data brokers and request to opt-out from their data collection – a tedious task which requires much effort and time. However, you can protect your own data proactively by following these steps: 

Privatize Yourself
Your online presence can pose a security risk
; any information you divulge on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media is fair game. If your public profile is filled with personal information, anyone with some money and time can gain access to your personal information.

Secure Your Data
It is hard to protect yourself rapidly and efficiently, as it is difficult to visualize how much data you’re sending and receiving at any given moment. Therefore, it is crucial to implement cyber security software tools on both mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and desktop devices. These tools encrypt your data, meaning that unauthorized individuals cannot read your data. 

Install an Anti-virus Tool
Visiting suspicious sites and opening files you should not open are not the only ways to infect your system. As the name implies, anti-virus software is designed to combat computer viruses, but the majority of modern anti-virus software will also fight various other threats apart from traditional viruses – including phishing attacks, Trojan horses, worms, and other malware.

Secure and Complex Passwords
Passwords are the first line of defense in any security mechanism. Avoid using easy-to-guess passwords, even if they aren’t found in the dictionary. For instance, you shouldn’t use your name, company name, pets names, birthday, or ZIP code, or any other easy-to-find information.  

Other methods you can use to protect your online privacy include using firewalls with specific criteria to block or prevent unauthorized access to your network. Obviously, always opt-out of data broker systems when possible, as data brokers are legally obliged to remove your data upon request. However, it is worth investing in security software solutions, as a proactive approach to your overall security.

More information on cyber security and online privacy can be found in our free eBooks and on our website

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