Those coupons on your phone? That you synced to your email address? So you can get a discount that you’ll pay with your credit card?
There are companiesAcxiom
and many, many, many more out there called
They buy and sell and “broker” information about you.
Like starting a new job,
adopting a pet
or attending graduate school.
Data brokers trade this information with credit rating agencies, department stores, banks – basically any company that wants to sell you something.
They get this information from the same companies – drug stores, electronics chains, supermarkets.
But that’s not all.
They also get your information from public records.
That government paperwork hidden in large, dusty file cabinets?
What kind of records are we talking about?
every address held
public worker salaries
And when we say home address, there’s often a map to accompany it, sometimes even adding your age and the members of your household.
And this doesn’t include any information you volunteer – screen names, avatars, profiles, social media accounts, blogs or personal sites.
These sites make money by forking over information in exchange for cash. For only a few dollars, someone can get this information.
It may not be accurate. But most likely it’s accurate enough to
Well, there’s good and bad news.
The data these firms have is (generally) anonymized. You’re just a bunch of numbers to the big data brokers.
A lot of people are, and lawmakers are beginning to put some pressure on these companies to give users more information and controlYou can also opt-out out of the some of the data tracking, or at least block some services from accessing your web activity. There’s a Firefox extension, now available for Chrome and Safari, called Ghostery, which lets you see what sites are accessing your behavior on any given website. If you really want, you can browse invisibly – incognito in Chrome and privately in Firefox – which means none of your history, preferences or cookies will be saved. Both browsers, but Firefox specifically, offers many extensions that show you what websites track your data and how they’re connected, giving you the option of opting in or out. over their information.
As long as you live in modern society, your information will be out there. Even if you could somehow forgo using the Internet, your information is in all sorts of databases, and you can’t get rid of it.
This can be tricky. There’s a lot of fine print. You won’t get out of everything. It’s impossible to know who has what – and what exactly they have.
Most Internet safety tips focus around information you are putting out there – on social networks and the like.
The more you integrate your services
– connecting Spotify with your Facebook account, your Pinterest activity to Twitter, your Minecraft games to your bank –
the more marketers and data brokers will know your habits and try to sell you information.