Selling the personal information we share online is big business for data brokers, and we have no control over where that sold data ends up or how it will be used. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent online data brokers from getting hold of and selling your personal information.
What are data brokers?
Data brokers make money by aggregating and utilizing personal information shared online and selling it to third parties. Data brokers collate and sell data as it relates to different market segments. For example, there are brokers that sell health, financial and recruitment-related data, as well as those that sell data on browsing history for the purposes of targeted advertising.
Brokers collect data from a range of sources, including government records, online purchases, and social media. The type of information they collate and sell includes names, addresses, contact details, and other forms of sensitive and non-sensitive personally identifiable information that build up a profile of who you are.
What can you do to stop data brokers from selling your information?
The most straightforward way of preventing brokers from selling your information is to stop them from getting hold of it in the first place. However, this is much easier said than done. Websites require users to input personal data for all kinds of reasons, and they often include a checkbox or fine print somewhere on the site that permits them to share that data with third-party brokers. Remaining vigilant as to the information you are sharing and what the site intends to do with that data is important.
There are data protection laws in place to help consumers control the use of their information, at least on a limited scale. The most robust is the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which gives individuals the limited right to request that organizations delete their personal data.
Opting out of data broker sites
Many data broker sites have a facility to allow individuals to opt-out, i.e. remove their data from the site. The process is different for each site but it generally involves searching for your details and filling out a form. While opting out is essentially straightforward, remember there are many of these data broker sites out there and you need to contact each one individually. There is also no guarantee that your information won’t end up back on the site. A data removal tool or service can complete the opt out process for multiple data brokers on your behalf and ensure the data stays off the site.
What are the risks of allowing brokers to sell your data?
While you might think that the only impact of letting data brokers sell your information is that you will be bombarded with more ads, the truth is there are greater risks. These include identity theft, scams, and reputational damage, as well as the detrimental use of your credit score or criminal history by legitimate firms and organizations.
Overall, it makes sense to take back control of your online profile. This means taking steps to keep your personal data out of the hands of data brokers and the entities which buy that data.