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What Data Brokers Know About You

Heather Smith, Data Broker Operations Manager at Optery, discusses what Data Brokers know about Consumers.

Finding out that data brokers sell personal information of yours that you didn’t offer to them to begin with can be disturbing.The fact that it’s gone unregulated for so long makes it a little bit scarier as far as the information that you can actually find out about other people now.

It’s not just finding somebody’s name, address and phone number anymore. You can find out their name, their address, their phone number, their email address, their relatives names, what jobs they held before, or what companies they worked for. You can find out where they are based on location services from their phones.

A majority of the public information that’s available through public records, like that are on dot gov sites that anybody can have access to, these data broker companies have seized on that information and turned it into a monetary opportunity for themselves.

How do Data Brokers Operate?

The data they collect can include everything from a person’s name and contact information to their date of birth and retail purchase history. This information is then sold to other companies, who use it for marketing and other purposes. While some Data Brokers collect information that is publicly available, others collect it through more controversial means, such as purchasing it from third-party companies or scraping it from social media sites. Data Brokers often have little or no transparency about how they collect and use consumer data, which has led to concerns about their practices.

In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission released a report on Data Brokers that found that they ”collect[ ed] and maintain[ ed] a wealth of data on almost every U. S. consumer. ”The report also found that Data Brokers ”operate[ d] largely in the background” and that ”consumers are generally unaware of the existence of data brokers and the collection and sale of their data. ”The report concluded that Data Brokers ”should be required to take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of the data they collect and maintain” and that they should provide ”consumers with greater control over the use of their personal data.

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