Data brokers, also known as information brokers, are companies that collect personal information and then sell it to make a profit. Data brokers may collect information from companies such as credit card companies, crawl the internet looking for public sources of information, and other legal methods to gain information. Data brokerage companies generate more than $200 billion in revenue annually and are expected to continue growing. Given the volume of information created each year, this shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Every second of 2021, 1.7MB of data is created. This is a highly valuable product, especially when you consider the increase in internet usage, and the integration of apps, fingerprint scanning, and facial recognition into everyday life makes this a very dangerous combination.
Data brokers pose a serious security risk because you are vulnerable to identity theft, stalking, blackmailing, surveillance, doxing, social engineer scams, and other forms of harassment.
How to remove your personal information from the internet
- Search for your name on Google
You might need to add a middle initial or the city you lived in depending on how common your name is. You’ll likely notice your personal information as you scroll through the search results on sites such as Been Verified, Mylife, and Spokeo.
Information you may find includes:
- Full name
- Phone Number
- Email Address
- And more
You are now in the world of intrusive people-search data broker sites that only allow you to access your personal information.
- Find the opt-out page
Many websites that allow people to search for information offer an opt-out page. Others require you to send an email request. You can keep track of the sites that you have emailed, and send a follow-up email if needed. To request deletion, some data broker sites like WhitePages will require that you sign up. For any communication with these companies, make sure you use a throwaway address like Proton Mail.
Once you locate your personal information, you can visit a company that specializes in content removal. Many offer guides to opt-out of data brokers. Here is an example: Been Verified opt-out instructions.
- Rinse and Repeat
There are over 180 data brokers online that post your personal information. Not all will be displayed in a simple Google search. This also includes information found on the dark web. There are constantly new data brokers being created every day. It is important to continue to monitor your search results and your online presence.
All brand-name monitoring tools work in the same way. You first enter your keywords (aka brand or people names). Next, you create an alert (usually an email) that will be sent to the correct person when a mention occurs. You will need to go through more mentions, the more common your name is. You can set up Google Alerts for free and receive an email every time there is new information published about you.
- Set Up Protection
How smart can you help protect your privacy online? Avoid sharing too much on social media. Cybercriminals could gain more information from you on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram by sharing too much information. This could enable them to steal your identity, or access your financial information.
A Facebook hacker could, for example, determine the mascot of your high school or the maiden name of your mother by looking through your account. This information can be used to create security questions that allow you to change your passwords for financial accounts.
Many people ignore this warning. The Identity Theft Resource Center conducted a 2018 survey and found that 52 percent of respondents had shared personal identifying information via social media.
Here are some tips to keep your data secure:
- Share less online.
- Strong, unique passwords are essential. Two-factor authentication is recommended.
- Tighten privacy settings for your online accounts.
- Clear out unused browser extensions and mobile apps.
- You can block search engines tracking you.
- Secure VPN for online browsing
- Software updates should not be ignored
- You can disable data and ad tracking.
- Encryption is a way to protect your data from prying eyes.
- Remove unnecessary third-party app connections
Are Data Brokers Legal?
Data brokers can generally operate in compliance with the law. Even if there aren’t strict data privacy laws in place or they don’t enforce them regularly, it’s possible for data brokers to operate within the law. Many times consent to share data can be found in mandatory check boxes or in the fine print when someone registers for an online discount card or loyalty card. This can be combined with public sources such as social media or other data brokers to allow these companies to collect information in legal ways.
Luth Research, for example, has programs that allow them to directly pay individuals for information about themselves. They also have the right to sell their information to a third party. This can work out in the best interests of everyone, as data brokers make money by selling information and customers receive more targeted advertising for their products and services.
Why is online privacy so important?
These websites often contain more personal information than is necessary for criminals to use for identity theft and social engineering. It is important to take all steps to delete personal data from internet data brokers.
Everything is affected by online privacy, from the evolution of technology to how it impacts your personal safety or security. Poor online privacy can lead to “offline” dangers such as doxing harassment, extortion, and swatting.
Let’s discuss how it affects us personally.
It is not your intention for thieves to find out that you live alone. They may also know when you aren’t home and use this information to break into your apartment. Scammers will not be able to use your birthdate and address to obtain loans in your name. Cyber-criminals must be stopped
before they can manipulate you into opening malicious email attachments that contain malware.
It’s a good idea to take a moment and list the most important online accounts. These accounts could include your online bank account, your email address, and your favorite social media platforms.
Now, list all the information they have on you. It doesn’t take long to start by creating your profile. Most likely, you shared your contact information, phone number, email address, place of birth, education, relationship status, and even your email address.
This is a chance to assess whether the compromise between your privacy or the benefits that you receive by using the service is fair. You can always revoke these rights at any moment, even if the service or product you are using is not what you prefer.
Internet privacy is vital because it allows you to control your identity and personal data. Anyone with the intent and means to manipulate your identity can do so.
You these steps to remove your personal information from Google and protect your online privacy.
You, can also give as little information as possible. For instance, before allowing you to opt out, certain data broker websites want a copy of your driver’s license or another legal ID.