Data Brokers: The in-and-out of personal data

2 years ago

It’s become very common for most folks to take the Internet for granted; so much so that they are offering their personal data without question when prompted. This is, of course, awesome for companies that deal with data analytics; moreso, if they are in the business of selling their efforts as commodities.

Oddly, the world has no idea who these data analytics and brokers are. Moreover, no one bothers to ask the right questions. That changes for one state in America as of February 2019.

According to Fast Company, a newly enacted law in the State of Vermont will force such companies to come forward. Basically, the law requires businesses that buy and sell third-party personal data to register with the Secretary of State.

While they must register, the law doesn’t enforce them to disclose specific details; specifically, who’s in their databases, what data they collect, or who buys them. There is no push-back for an option that allow consumers to opt out from the collection process.

These companies do not need to be user-friendly as they buy or license data, and at times scrap public records. From there, they can sift and study all the data they can get from billions of people. One major example to consider: in the older days, companies just buy magazines subscriber lists to build targeted advertising audiences. Another example in the modern era: companies can study user behaviour to determine their character, situation, and even their location. This is all thanks to the smartphones they use.

All that data can create specific profiles and classifications for each user. This is how marketers determine what works best for their campaigns when targeting specific audiences. Unfortunately, these practices are not just for advertising as political consultants are doing the same thing; just that they are doing it with a political skew to win votes.

More critical are the threat and malicious actors who are already mining people-search platforms for targets.

The list of companies that have registered is very expansive, encompassing a varied mix of verticals in that space. However, this is just a fraction of an even larger pool of organisations that deal with data; after all, there are the first-party players too like Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

For those interested in the list, they can check it out here. There is also a guide on what to do if there is a need to delete personal data from these brokers.

Text by: Victor Yap 

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