Data is rapidly becoming a valuable commodity. Nowhere is this more evident than online. Websites may go to great lengths to persuade us to type in an email address or leave other personal details. These days, it’s almost impossible to visit a website and avoid the annoying pop-up windows inviting us to sign up for an email newsletter or similar. Luckily, you can ignore or even block these pesky intrusions. However, it’s worth remembering that most of your online data is harvested without you even realizing it.
Read below to see how it works…
Your Online Data: Data Brokers and Your Online Presence
Data brokers are the people who make money from your online data. Data brokers operate in the shadows. They harvest data and sell it online for commercial gain. All data has a value, some more so than others.
- Credit card details,
- telephone numbers…
…it’s all for sale somewhere.
If you have an online presence, data brokers almost certainly have a file on you. Even if you don’t use the internet, you are still in their cross-hairs. Thanks to publicly accessible databases of key information, such as government public records and phone directories, no data is off-limits.
Where is Data Extracted From?
Everything we do online leaves a digital footprint. Unless you browse through a VPN, each time you visit a website, the site leaves small pieces of code on your computer known as cookies.
- track you
- enable sites to show you targeted ads and other material
In some respects, cookies are useful. They are responsible for automatic logins, for one thing, which is a bonus if you can’t remember passwords. However, cookies make it nice and easy for data brokers to build a useful record of your browsing history. It’s worth money to advertisers.
Data on Social Media
Data brokers also extract information from social media sites. Oversharing is prolific on social media. Millions of people dump tons of information on their social media feeds, without realizing that it can be used against them. Unless your social media account is locked down, your personal information is there for the whole world to see.
So, if you:
- list your family members
- regularly post photos of your pets
- share your home and your vacations virally…
…it is pretty easy to build a picture of you.
Some companies also sell on data they extract from their customers. It’s not ethical, but it does happen. Government agencies also give tons of data away by uploading it to publicly accessible databases.
Finally, data brokers also buy and sell data between themselves. Data is often segmented and sold as a list. So, if a company is looking to market tennis equipment to millennials, they might buy a list of contact details for people in that age range who are known to be interested in tennis.
How to Check What Information is in the Public Domain
If you are a chronic over-sharer on social media, your whole life is probably in the public domain. However, it’s a good idea to check. Try using a people search site.
Type in your:
- telephone number
Check and see what comes up. You might feel some shock or even relief; hopefully the latter.
It’s relatively easy to get the reputable sites to remove your info. Click on the removal link and fill out a simple form. Unfortunately, however, there are hundreds of sites. So, if privacy is a big issue, try using a paid-for service to remove your data in bulk.
In Conclusion… What Will You Do?
Pay close attention to what information you post online. Lockdown your social media privacy settings and always tick the box saying “don’t store my details” if applicable. Finally, you could consider moving to California where, thanks to AB375, California’s new privacy law, you have the right to be forgotten (I’m not going to…for many other reasons, but you could! :)).
Is your online data being protected? Are you taking any necessary steps to protect your online presence?
AUTHOR LaTia Longuemire
My name is LaTia Longuemire. I enjoy writing, singing, and cooking in my spare time. My passion is helping others. At this stage in my lifetime, I'm primarily focused on my children. They are everything that keeps my world spinning.