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360 TECH Talk: Data Brokers


digital executive protection, data brokers

Protecting Your Privacy in the Age of Big Data

Data brokers collect and sell personally identifiable information (PII) and publicly available information (PAI) from a variety of sources, including public records, social media activity, and online purchases. While this information can be used to provide targeted advertising and other personalized services, it can also be used for more nefarious purposes, such as identity theft or online fraud. Data brokers can collect PII and PAI from an assortment of locations:

  • Public records, such as court records, property ownership records, and voter registration records

  • Social media activity, including posts, likes, and shares on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

  • Online purchases, provide data on a consumer's shopping habits and preferences

  • Loyalty program memberships, which can reveal information about a consumer's purchasing behavior and preferences

  • Websites that track user behavior, including search queries, website visits, and clicks

  • Mobile apps and devices that collect location and usage data

  • Data purchased from other companies or data aggregators who collect and sell large volumes of information

The material collected from these sources can be combined and analyzed to create detailed profiles of individuals that include a wide range of sensitive data, including personal and financial information, preferences, habits, and more. In response to these concerns, privacy advocates and lawmakers have called for greater regulation of data brokers. In 2020, a group of 10 US senators sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging the agency to use its authority under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to regulate data brokers and protect consumer privacy. The FCRA requires credit reporting agencies to ensure the accuracy and privacy of consumer credit reports. In order to combat the potential risks associated with data brokers, many consumers are turning to opt-out services and third-party solutions, where they can request their personal information be removed from data broker databases. The process for opting out can vary, but typically requires the consumer to provide identification and submit their request by mail, phone, or online form allowing the information to repopulate without any notification to the consumer. In addition to opt-out services, third-party services like 360 Privacy offer subscription-based solutions that help consumers manage their personal information and privacy online. 360 Privacy offers a comprehensive approach to managing personal information and privacy online. The service covers 400+ sites and does not require the client to do any of the work. Once subscribed, 360 Privacy will conduct a comprehensive search for personal information on the web, identify the associated sensitive information, and work to have that information removed from data brokers and other third-party sites everyday. By staying informed about the risks and benefits of data collection and sharing, and by taking a proactive approach to managing personal information and privacy with services like 360 Privacy, consumers can ensure that their personal information remains private and secure. While there are still risks associated with data brokers and other third-party services, the use of opt-out services and third-party solutions like 360 Privacy can greatly reduce the risk of personal information being exposed to malicious entities. What can you do to protect your privacy without a 3rd Party Service? Consumers can take several steps to protect their privacy in the face of potentially invasive data broker practices.

  1. Limit the amount of personal information they share online

  2. Use ad-blocking software to limit online tracking

  3. Review and update their privacy settings on social media accounts

  4. Be cautious about giving out personal information to third-party services

  5. Be diligent opting out of Data Brokers

  6. Maintain positive control over what information is currently available

By being aware of the potential risks associated with data brokers and taking steps to protect their personal information, consumers can help ensure that their privacy is respected in the digital age. The FCRA and other regulations may provide additional protections, but ultimately, the use of these services empowers consumers to take control of their online privacy and make informed decisions about their personal information.

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