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data broker

Explainers

Data brokers know all about you; learn about them

September 2nd, 2021

You may not know about data brokers, but it’s their job to know about you. Creepy, right? Let’s even the playing field a bit.

You have to be constantly vigilant to protect yourself and your family when going online. A case in point is the issue of data brokers. Parents need to be aware of data brokers because they are companies that exist to gather a huge amount of information on people.

What they do

Data brokers suck up vast amounts of information about you, your kids, and everyone else who uses the internet. In short, everyone. They get their information from a myriad of sources: details you give out freely when filling out applications to credit cards or insurance plans, the apps on your smartphone, the websites you buy clothes from.

They gather, sort, and sell all that information to companies who value it. As the digital economy expands, so too does the role of these brokers. And that’s not always a problem. As the Federal Trade Commission noted, data brokers provide useful services, such as helping businesses verify your identity or discover fraud. Data brokers also provide information to companies so they can determine if you are eligible for housing, employment or a line of credit.

But they are also selling information to advertisers who want to target people more precisely based on their online persona. They track your online shopping habits and harvest your location data and the history of where you’ve been. And they have all sorts of tools to get that information. That innocuous-looking weather app on your smartphone? It could be giving away location data to advertisers whenever you use it to see if might rain in your area.

These data traders have big incentives to dig into your life and scoop up your personal information, and they’re constantly digging.

What you can do

Fortunately, you have a defense: use a trusted Virtual Private Network or VPN to cloak your online activities, hiding from data brokers as you go about your business. Don’t give apps permission to track you (via your smartphone) and clear cookies from your browser on a regular basis.

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