Privacy 101 ๐Ÿง 

What are Data Brokers? Here’s What You Need to Know.

You have almost certainly given Data Brokers the right to your personal information at some point.

Data Brokers have become increasingly pervasive in our culture and daily lives. Yet, many people need to be made aware of this shadow industry that collects and sells our data without our consent, including personally identifiable information (PII).

You should know this upfront: 

You have almost certainly given Data Brokers the right to your personal information at some point.

While it’s difficult to give an exact percentage of individuals who have had their data exposed, sources estimate that 80% or more users have had at least some of their personal information sold by a Data Broker. In truth, this number is probably a bit low. 

While you may have heard the term “Data Brokers” in the news somewhere, let’s take a quick look into what they are and why they’re a privacy risk.

What are Data Brokers?

“Data brokers have compiled detailed profiles on nearly every American consumer, including where you live, what you buy, your political and religious affiliations, your income and education, and your health concerns.” – Former FTC Commissioner Julie Brill

Data Brokers have built a $250 billion industry out of the packaging and selling of personal data without individuals’ knowledge or consent. 

The massive amount of our data that Brokers accumulate gives us an equally massive privacy risk. Indeed, one of the most potent arguments against Data Brokers is the hundreds of millions of personal records leaked because of their negligence. 

We must also remember that thousands of companies purchase Data Brokers’ products. If a company we do business with purchases information from Data Brokers, and this company is breached, a barrage of our personal information may be out in the open. For us, this can mean all sorts of trouble, including identity theft, financial fraud, privacy violations, reputation damage, cyberstalking, harassment, medical identity theft, phishing scams, and more.

We must be aware of the implications that come along with Data Brokers collecting our information. Not only is our information at risk of being stolen, but it is also at risk of being sold to unknown third parties who could use it in ways that are personally harmful.

Now that we’ve discussed the implications of Data Brokers collecting our information, let’s take a look at how they acquire it.

How do Data Brokers Get Your Information?

“Data brokers are constantly scraping our social media accounts, browsing histories, and purchase records, often without our knowledge or consent.”

– Julia Angwin, Investigative Journalist, and Author

Data Brokers obtain personal information from various online and offline sources. With the increasing digitization of personal records and a primarily free model, online is the preferred source for most Data Brokers.

All told, there are four main ways that Data Brokers get your information:

  1. Collecting data from e-commerce and retailer sites using web scraping technology.
  2. Collecting data from public sites using cookies and fingerprinting.
  3. Purchasing the data from other Data Brokers.
  4. Receiving consumer data from third parties via partnership.

Below are some popular sources of online information used by data brokers:

  • E-commerce websites (including AliExpress, Amazon, eBay, and Groupon)
  • Mobile apps
  • Online forums, discussion boards, and review sites
  • People Search Finders
  • Public records databases
  • Search engines
  • Social media platforms (including all the big names)

4 Steps to Take Control of Your Data

Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to retake control of your data. In order:

  1. Find out if your data is exposed.
  2. Clean up any exposed data.
  3. Limit your data sharing.
  4. Monitor your data.

Find Out if Your Data is Exposed

Of course, you should find out if any corrective action is needed. This involves more than a simple Google search. Although you can find some information this way, you must dig deeper.

Privacy Bee’s 100% free scan is an excellent place to start. This comprehensive scan will search thousands of known data breaches and hundreds of Data Brokers and People Search Sites for signs of your info.

After your scan is complete, you’ll receive the following:

  • A Privacy Risk Score
  • A centralized privacy dashboard
  • 24/7 data breach monitoring
  • A list of Data Brokers with your information and free DIY guides to help you remove it

Clean Up Any Exposed Data

The next logical step is to take decisive action against any exposed data. Privacy Bee offers hundreds of free DIY guides to help remove your information and opt out from any Data Broker with your data.

If your data is exposed and you lack the time or patience to clean it up (we understand!), Privacy Bee can do it for you! Among some of the benefits you’ll enjoy as a Pro member:

  • Automated, ongoing deletion from Data Brokers, People Search Sites, and company databases.
  • A data privacy concierge to answer your data privacy questions and concerns
  • 24/7/365 scanning of your private data across the web
  • Major industry opt-outs, drastically reducing your spam and telemarketing calls and emails.
  • Personalized privacy alerts 

Limit Your Data Sharing

You must be mindful of what data you share and whom you share it with. This way, you can avoid repeating the “find, clean, repeat” cycle.

Here are some tips to limit the data you share:

  1. Read all contracts carefully: Especially the sections like “How we use your data” and similarly-phrased sections
  2. Adjust your privacy settings on social media: All social media platforms have privacy settings where you can limit who can see your profile and its associated data. Take advantage of it.
  3. Adopt a “zero-trust” mindset by sharing data only when necessary: Assume that every company out there wants your data because most do. If you take this mindset, you’ll be more diligent in guarding sensitive data.

Monitor Your Data

Once you’ve removed your private data and limited your data sharing, it’s all about looking for new exposures. Data Brokers, People Search Sites, and other companies constantly collect and sell personal information, so having a solution that provides continuous monitoring is a must.

If you’ve already scanned your data with Privacy Bee, they’ve activated 24/7 data breach monitoring. Now you need a solution that monitors Data Brokers and company databases.

Privacy Bee has you covered here too! They’ll provide continuous monitoring across the Dark Web, People Search Sites, and company databases for any trace of your personal information.

By the time you’ve finished reading the article, one or more Data Brokers may have scooped up your data.

Fight back starting with a FREE Privacy Scan now to see where you are at risk!