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How Data Brokers Pose a Risk to Privacy

How Data Brokers Pose a Risk to Privacy
How Data Brokers Pose a Risk to Privacy

What are data brokers?

California law defines data brokers as “a business that knowingly collects and sells to third parties the personal information of a consumer with whom the business does not have a direct relationship” Simply put, data brokers are businesses that profit from trading personal data of individuals without the individuals benefitting from it.

Data brokers use this personal data to create detailed profiles of individuals, which they sell to businesses, advertisers, and other organizations.

How do data brokers pose a risk to data privacy?

Data brokers pose a number of risks to data privacy, including:

  • Data Collection and Sharing: Data brokers collect a variety of information to create a detailed profile on the individual, this includes public records, online purchasing patterns, social media and any other information available. Data brokers then sell this information to businesses and organizations, advertisers or any other company that needs data profiles of consumers to model strategies for profit. It can also be used to identify individuals' vulnerabilities, such as their financial situation or their health status.

  • Lack of Data security: Data brokers do not use proper measures to keep the personal data of individuals they collect secure. This could usher loss of sensitive data that could jeopardize individuals’ data, leading to fraud or theft.. This is also why California law requires data brokers to register themselves on the Attoreny General’s public website.

  • Data discrimination: Data brokers could create biased data profiles with unfair parameters and sell those to companies and businesses which would encourage discrimination and disparity.

  • Destruction of Data Privacy: The bulk of data being stored and shared by data brokers (data that individuals did not consent to being shared with companies or businesses) would lead to a power imbalance creating an oppressive environment where individuals would not feel in control of their own lives and information.

How can you protect yourself from data brokers?

There are a number of things that individuals can do to protect themselves from data brokers, including:

  • Be Mindful of Sharing Personal Data Online: Individuals should ensure they don’t share sensitive information on social media or any platforms that could help data brokers scout for the same. There should be a basic awareness about the simple ways data brokers can scam individuals with scam emails and random suspicious links.

  • Opt Out: Individuals should always be on the look of of the programs they are subscribed to, and to opt out of dubious ones that are not relevant or seem sceptical–programs data brokers could use to gather information.

  • Beware of Accepting Cookies: Individuals should also be mindful of the cookies they accept as these also help data brokers profile a lot of information that could be used to expose the individual to targeted marketing and other unknown risks.

  • Know Your Rights: You have certain rights under data protection laws. These rights include the right to access your personal information, the right to correct your personal information, and the right to delete your personal information.

The European Union has some of the strictest data protection laws in the world. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) gives individuals a number of rights over their personal information, including the right to access their data, the right to correct their data, and the right to delete their data.

Compliance of the GDPR is essential in terms of securing ones’ privacy and digital safety and business should comply with the same, and individuals should use the GDPR as a shield against all things that could lead to the loss of their privacy.

It is essential to note that the growing number of privacy policies being enacted by the government, regarding personal data of individuals, are a great sign of progress and we should be consistent in implementing those to exercise being cyber secure!

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