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The Scary Truth About the Data Broker Industry

Data Brokers

It’s interesting to think that the data broker industry has been around for decades, yet most of us know as much about it today as we did when the 21st Century arrived. Over the past 25 years at least, several trends developed as technology and the internet grew and exploded beyond anyone’s expectations and imaginations.

It’s time for everyone to wake up about the facts on data brokers, and possibly do something about it on a personal level.

That is, the most intimate and, even private, facts about our entire lives—your entire life—are spelled out in complete detail on many different databases on the internet.

How we got here.

What went wrong? Nothing really. It’s just that enterprising companies saw an opportunity to get rich on all the data that was readily available online. And an industry was born.

We all know that year by year, new technologies spring up that allow us to do more, learn more and share more than we did before.

Online shopping is where it seemed to start. Then social media exploded, and this all seemed to coincide with the arrival of smart phones and a thousand new apps that gave us plenty to do and play with.

But from the very beginning, there was a lot of behind-the-scenes activity that we simply weren’t paying attention to. How our facts of life ended up online and up for grabs.

Let’s backtrack a bit.

  1. As companies created websites and online sales, they also created the ability to capture information about their shoppers and buyers. Almost of all that happened in the background.
  2. As technology grew, data acquisition grew as organizations learned how to acquire, analyze and enhance customer information for themselves and others.
  3. As shoppers and consumers of services, we got used to developing online accounts and digital relationships with retailers and virtually all companies and organizations we interacted with.

All the while, we simply and innocently believed that everything that was happening online was good and showed signs of progress.

The promise (and lie) of technology.

After all, that was the promise of the Internet—a better way of living for everyone.

If we thought about it at all (and most of us did not), we probably thought all data analytics being done was a good thing.

If only we knew then what we are slowly coming to learn now. That the details of our lives are up for viewing, up for sale and available to whomever wants to buy it.

We have gotten way too comfortable with living in the digital age. Over the past few decades, retail companies, big tech, websites and organizations have quietly been collecting data on just about every move we make.

The data broker industry.

On top of that, an entire new industry sprung up around all the data collection—companies called “data brokers.” That’s the term for ANY firm that scoops up information on us, then turns around and sells it to other people who want it.

As vague as that description of a data broker sounds, that’s about all that 99.9% of us know. Every minute, thousands of facts about lives are acquired, examined, enhanced, enriched, stored, and sold and updated again and again. And we still don’t really know it because we don’t see it.

Data Science

That is the scary truth about the data broker industry: It is made up of businesses that thrive on the process of gathering vast amounts of information (data) on you and selling it to whoever wants to buy it, for whatever reason—and it’s legal.

Think of it like this.

A data broker pieces together information on you to build a detailed profile of who they think you are. The truth is, information about your life (individually, by name) is available, for sale, this very minute.

What can you do?

You can begin to educate yourself more on the topic of data brokers by visiting our Learning Center. You can also start to revisit the privacy options on the apps and websites you visit. Additionally, you should think about whether you are sharing too much personal information about yourself online, especially on social media.

Remember, it’s not just data brokers who want to know more about you. Con artists and scammers also use social media sites to learn about prospective targets. That’s what “social engineering” is all about. We also have articles on that topic as well in our Learning Center.

Finally, you should consider following the Easy Prey podcast, hosted by Chris Parker, CEO of WhatIsMyIPAddress.com. He has interviewed experts on the subjects of data collection, online privacy and more. You’ll find the podcast on your favorite podcast platform.

You can also find every episode of the podcast on the Easy Prey website. Just click on the link below and search by topic.

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