Wondering how unknown brands get to contact you about their latest promotions? Or how you suddenly receive text messages from companies you never gave your number to?

From a myriad of sources, data brokers collect as much as they can about you. They know the value of your information and can reap big profits selling it. But what exactly are data brokers and how do you stop them from harassing you?

What are data brokers?

According to an article in Los Angeles Times, the data brokerage industry could be worth $ 200 billion. Data brokers are the lifeblood of this industry. They collect various data points based on your online activity and then sell them to various buyers. These buyers can range from potential employers to marketers and advertisers etc.

This data is largely personal and may include your name, mobile phone number, email address, places you have visited, level of education, marital status, employment, recent purchases, your general fitness level and your known investments.

Why data brokers collect data

Most data brokers collect data under the guise of improving businesses or business intelligence. Often, this practice is presented as improving the way retailers serve their customers. Depending on your consumer profile, this data makes it possible to assign a specific monetary value to your expected profitability. For example, many believe that brokers may sell email addresses owned by high income earners at higher prices due to the likelihood of the employee spending more money.

However, advertisements aren’t the only thing your data is used for. As technology evolves, the data collected has become more granular. This granularity often results in consumer profiling which can affect insurance premiums, transportation prices and even credit ratings.

While these concerns may seem frightening, there may be other implications for data collection as well. For example, giving businesses access to personal information puts you at risk in the event of a security breach. And, with the right information, hackers can steal your identity, apply for bank loans, or harass you and your family.

Related: Why You Should Decentralize Your Data

How data brokers get your data

Social media

Over the years, big tech companies have silently built your consumer profile in a number of ways. Here’s how they extract that information:

Public documents

Using publicly available sources, data brokers can gain valuable information such as property, marriage licenses, court proceedings, professional licenses, voter registration, and more.

Online shopping history

Even if you’re a fan of offline shopping, your impulse buy, loyalty card, and weekly grocery records say a lot about your consumption. On the other hand, online shopping history reveals information such as your socio-economic status, current address, and spending habits.

Social media

Long-time netizens may have revealed a little too much about themselves online over the years. Unless you’ve taken the time to erase your social media presence, your profiles may contain a wealth of information like birthdays, life events, hometowns, languages ​​spoken, and political affiliations. .

Navigation history

When you browse the Internet using search engines, you are teaching data brokers about your general interests. It doesn’t matter if you take the Buzzfeed MBTI quizzes or just watch TV. Either way, data brokers can use your information to determine which companies will benefit from your related interests.

Smart home appliances

Finally, data brokers don’t just accumulate information about the use of your browsing history. As more people invest in smart home devices like doorbells, cameras, speakers, and watches, more businesses are gaining access to previously unavailable data. For example, many smart home devices now reveal real-time location data, fitness levels, IP addresses, etc.

How to unsubscribe from major data broker databases

Hand with the word no

Unfortunately, there isn’t just one way to opt out of data brokerage databases. Each business has different procedures and requirements. But some general principles apply when you opt out of brokerage listings.

Manually request deletion of the brokerage database

Each data brokerage company will have specific procedures for manual database deletion. While some of these companies only require you to complete a form, others are more stringent and require detailed proof of identity.

Here is a list of data brokerage firms that you should opt out of first:

Because you have the right to unsubscribe, it is completely free to request the deletion of data. However, you should expect this process to take weeks, months, or sometimes years.

Register with the National Do Not Call Register

Under the United States Federal Trade Commission, individuals can request to be removed from telemarketing databases. To register, visit the National Do Not Call Register website. Unfortunately, charities, political groups, debt collectors, and polls are still allowed to call you. However, for organizations that violate telemarketing terms, you can report them. Unfortunately, these calls can take up to 31 days to stop.

Hire a privacy information removal service

While it is possible to do the legwork yourself, it is also possible to hire professionals to do it for you. For example, companies that remove confidential information like Delete me help clean up online information like your name, address, property value, photos, and phone numbers from major data brokerage firms. Similar services will also send regular reports. Additionally, most perform routine scans every few months for newly collected information.

Hire reputation management services

For public figures, reputation management services can help you manage your public figure and limit access to your information. While not as precise as confidential information removal companies, reputation management teams often take a holistic perspective on data removal. This means that they can help identify what information to delete and keep. So, if you are looking to improve your public image while being safe, these services are a great option.

Keep your data brokers off your trail

Unfortunately, getting all of your data out of the clutches of data brokers is almost impossible. In addition, even if you successfully delete your profile from the major brokerage firms, there is no guarantee that your file will remain blank. In addition, some data is useful, especially when used in the right context.

Although online data privacy is still a relatively new issue, it will only become more relevant in the years to come. By understanding how data brokers take advantage of this data and how to protect yourself from these brokers, you can enjoy a much safer online experience.

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