Data brokers have received increased scrutiny in recent years as people are increasingly trying to keep their personal details confidential. Scandals involving individuals having their data stolen, sold, or broadcasted hit the news routinely, and these mysterious companies often take much of the blame. What data brokers are exactly and how they operate can be a little unclear, though, and we hope to clear up some confusion.
Essentially, data brokers are companies or organizations that gather, organize, and then distribute personal data on real people. They scrape various sources to find names attached to addresses, phone numbers, other people, and even voting history. While some data brokers specialize in selling this information to advertisers or market researchers, some will give it out to anybody who asks.
Easily the most infamous scandal involving data brokers had to do with Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting company who, according a 2017 article from Fountainink, claims to have formed psychological profiles on some 220 million Americans based on information retrieved from data brokers. While they were exposed around three years ago, there’s no telling what other companies are doing with this information that’s still publicly available.
The legality of these practices varies from country to country, and we plan on writing about different laws in place to protect you in the future; however, as it stands right now, there is essentially nothing keeping you safe from these actors in the United States except yourself. This may seem scary, but there are plenty of resources out there to get you on the right path.
This episode of Intel Techniques podcast is a great place to start. He covers the best, most efficient methods of getting yourself taken down from these sites, what the most prevalent data brokers are, and even answers some common questions. Additionally, Redact can prevent firms like Cambridge Analytica from scraping information on you from other sources, such as past social media posts.
Privacy is always an uphill battle, but with diligence and knowledge, you can keep you and your family safe.