How Data Brokers Track you and 5 Simple Steps to Avoid Them

Today we have our spotlight on data brokers and how they make money out of you!

Data Brokers and You

Data brokers is the term generally used to refer to companies who earn their money from collecting and selling your data. Data Brokers operate a shadowy system as we don’t realise how much data is being collected on us, or which companies are keeping a dossier on our online and offline activities for the purpose of targeting advertising.

A detailed Forbes report on data sharing, showed that the majority of customers were willing to share data with services if it has clear benefits but many didn’t realise that companies were collecting data without the users explicit consent. The most extreme risk that comes with this data collection as pointed out by the US Federal Trade Commission:

“People's search products can be used to facilitate harassment, or even stalking, and may expose domestic violence victims, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, public officials, or other individuals to retaliation or other harm.”

While those are extreme cases the collected data can put you at risk of fraud, identity theft as well being pre screened by potential employers or services such as banks.

While companies use much of this data to improve customer experience, the user has little control over this data and there is often more data than necessary collected. Which makes the user vulnerable to abuse. Particularly as users have no control over what third parties get access to their data.

Government intervention is obviously needed but as an individual, you can take steps to protect your data:

  • The majority of what data brokers collect is stuff that users have freely posted on blogs, social media and elsewhere, some of that is the easiest stuff to avoid by not posting.

  • Disabling cookies and encrypting browser traffic is the best way to avoid other ways that data brokers collect your information such as tracking cookies. There are numerous add ons for browser that help with this.

  • Opt out, numerous sites and services are committed to helping user remove old profiles or opt out of data brokers.

  • Use services that don’t track or prioritise privacy such as the search engine DuckDuckGo.

  • These rules must go for all your devices, tracking and data collection is just as present on your smartphone apps and on tablets as on your laptop. Any steps taken to remain anonymous online must also be done on your other devices.

What do you think of your data being sold without you knowing?