Data Brokers Know Your Most Personal Information

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If you’ve spent any time online in the past 10 years, you already know that personal information is being sold to marketers, advertisers, and data brokers. Just one super-targeted ad is enough to clue you in (and creep you out).

Most people would probably be surprised at how incredibly personal the information bought and sold by data brokers is. You don’t want your most private information–like your physical location, search history, address, health information, and more–being tracked, collected, appraised, sold, and posted online. And while it’s seems like there is no way to remove personal information from Google, it is possible.

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How Do Data Brokers Get Your Information?

Collecting and selling personal information is a billion-dollar industry—and data brokers don’t want the public to know about it. Some of the information is pretty basic, and could even be considered mundane--like your name, age, and the state you live in—much of which can just be picked up from public records. Then, there’s the far more personal information.

A lot of your personal data is gathered from your credit card purchases and your internet history. Online retailers keep track of what you buy (or click on but don’t purchase) for a number of reasons, one of which is selling that history to other advertisers. Then, there are third-party sites that pay to track your web-browsing behavior. This means that every time you’re on the internet, you’re being followed by a swarm of trackers, noting where you go and what you search.

They have countless ways to collect personal information, applying algorithms that track, gather, assemble, and analyze any data they can find about potential customers for pretty much any business-- retail, insurance, healthcare, and more. They rely on your ambivalence to keep up their industry, even though you and your data are the basis of it.

How Do Brokers Use Your Information?

Once a data broker has collected to your name, age, gender, purchase history, search history, IP address, and location (it’s not hard for them to figure out your home address), they can build a frighteningly accurate digital profile of you. There are even data brokers that specialize in digging up personal details and making highly intimate profiles based on an individual’s online activity.

For example, pharmaceutical companies hire data brokers to gather (or buy) information, and create lists of people who suffer from a particular illness. Even without access to specific medical records, if a person frequents a website selling asthma inhalers, has visited websites about living with asthma, or has any other related online activity, the data broker’s algorithms will probably label that person as asthmatic, even if it’s not true. This method is applied for pretty much any illness imaginable: diabetes, cancers, addiction to drugs or gambling, and more.

Data brokers also make guesses extremely private things, like an individual’s sexuality and any purchases of adult products they’ve made (or just looked at), or their financial position and whether they have any debts. Banks, insurance companies, and other interested parties have grown to rely on access to this information, and are willing to pay a lot of money for it. Luckily for them (and harrowingly for us), data brokers are happy to sell it to them.

What Can You Do About Data Brokers?

As distressing it is to know that your privacy is being invaded in this way, it is possible to do something about it and remove personal information from Google. While completely detaching yourself from the internet isn’t really possible if you want to lead a normal life, your online footprint can at least be mitigated, and you can regain control of your privacy.

Make sure that you’ve deleted accounts that you’re no longer using--information is sitting on these sights, waiting to be collected by data brokers. There are also data broker sites (like Whitepages) that make personal listings based on public records and other sources, where your information (including your age and address) is just a quick Google search away. While search engines are usually the way that someone can find your information, it’s the data brokers who are the ones posting it online in the first place. That’s why it’s so important to scrub your information from these websites.

It is possible to contact data brokers and request that your personal data is removed. Unfortunately, the process will take a lot of effort (and is extremely time-consuming). There are so many data brokers out there, and they don’t make it easy to remove your information. Each data broker has a separate process to remove your information, and even then they often re-post it within a few months removing it.

One of the most effective ways to remove your personal information from data brokers is to work with a professional company that can help manage and remove your personal information--so it stays private. DeleteMe will do the work of keeping your information off of major data broker websites, so it won’t be easy to access and won’t show up in Google search.

About DeleteMe

DeleteMe is working to make the internet a safer place by putting individuals back in control of their data. Led by consumer protection, privacy, and identity theft experts, they are passionate about offering user-friendly solutions to privacy threats. From password and payment security to removal from Whitepages, DeleteMe is here to help you keep your personal information private.

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