We’ve all heard and seen from those ads on the side of your screen, which just so happen to advertise those green sweatpants you were just thinking about buying, that companies are getting their hands on your information. But to what extent and how is this happening?
Data brokers (data companies) are companies that collect, analyze, and package consumer data and sell it to companies, advertisers, each other, the government, just about anyone who will buy it. This has been going on for decades however with the increased use of social media, online buying, and use of the internet in general the data being collected has increased significantly. These companies are gathering information on you from basic levels such as race, gender, and sex, to the most private manners in your life such as sexual orientation, whether you’re pregnant or not, psychiatric problems, political identification, and who you associate with. This data is collected in many different ways by many different companies which work together to sell and buy information from each other to increase their knowledge. A data company can sell information on your health based on recent purchases and searches online to insurance companies who can then use this information to value your health. A data company can infer your political orientation by what sites you go to and where your money is spent and then sell this information to campaigns who will strategically place advertisements based off this.
One of the problems with this practice is that it leads to generalizations and stereotypes about consumers based off no facts which can lead to racist and unfair assumed knowledge about certain consumers . Whats even more scary then the information that we know these companies are recording and selling about you, is the information we don’t know companies are recording and selling about you. With data becoming cheaper and easier to store everyday, there are no limits to the information being stored and every piece of data is important to somebody. Data companies are very reluctant to share specifics regarding what information they are tracking and who they are selling it to and this gives us little knowledge to how much they actually know.
While this information may not or should not scare the average consumer, it should be known that when you browse the web you are never alone, and at the most basic level: Every time you log on a website there are many data companies tracking your every move and adding this information to their bin in the hope to sell this information to companies who will then use information about you to try and take more money from your pocket to put into theirs.