If you’ve never heard of data brokers, they are the wheelers and dealers of information—personal information—about you and, most likely, everyone you know. If that isn’t terrifying enough, these miscreants are bound by few regulations. They fly under the radar, buying and selling information, and it isn’t really known how many of these companies exist.
Think about how often you interact with the internet throughout the day; shopping, social media, work,if you use the internet at all, you are at risk.While there are companies that remove personal information from Google, it alone is not enough to ford the data mines that exist. In North America, 95 percent of the population utilizes the internet, a 219 percent growth from the year 2000. Any interaction with the web has the possibility of divulging information about you, and data brokers are lying in wait to buy and sell that data, while you remain entirely unaware.
Your name, address, age, religion, usernames, personal medical history, family medical history, political affiliations, income, sexual orientation, medications you take, ethnicity–are just the tip of the iceberg. According to former Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill, “Today, the quantity of personal information sucked into the cyber-vortex is growing exponentially. 1.8 trillion gigabytes of data were created in the year 2011 alone – that’s equivalent to every U.S. citizen writing three tweets per minute for almost 27,000 years. And it’s predicted that the total amount of data will double every two years from here on out.”
Once this data is collected, it is bought and sold to advertisers, businesses, even the government, to be used as they will. There is nothing illegal about the buying and selling of your information because there are next to no online privacy laws in the United States. The lack of regulation helps make data brokering a million-dollar business. The companies we are aware of make hundreds of millions of dollars.
So, what can you do to protect yourself?
Short of moving to a deserted island, protecting all your information from data brokers is impossible. They will always be hiding in the woodwork rooting out data. However there are ways to limit the information they can access, examples include:
- Give up your store rewards card; it may give you discounts that encourage you to shop at a certain store. However, it is tracking everything you buy.
- Disable cookies on your browsers and delete the ones you allow every day
- Log out of social before browsing the web
- Hire a company that trolls for your data and deletes it
- Hire a company that hides your information
Based out of Boston, Abine is a privacy company on a mission to make the internet a better, safer environment while putting people back in control of their data. Led by consumer protection, privacy, and identity theft experts, they are passionate about making easy-to-use privacy solutions for everyday people. From removal from whitepages to password and payment security they are here to help you navigate the convoluted thoroughfare that is the world wide web.
Get protected at Abine.com