Apr 21, 2014 | Updated Jun 21, 2014
Robert Siciliano Personal Security and Identity Theft Expert
Data brokers have lots of personal information about you; here’s what you can do about that.
Ever hear of the term “data broker”? What do you think that is? Think about that for a moment. Yep, you got it: An entity that goes after your data and sells it to another entity.
The entity that gets the data, the broker, is called a consumer data company. They snatch huge amounts of data from individuals all over the planet and sell it. And who wants your personal information? Your information is of significant value to marketers, companies doing background checks and in some cases, your government.
They want to know what you like to buy, what you’re most likely to buy, if you want to lose weight, build muscle, what kind of cars you like, where you vacation, what you eat, where you shop for clothes, what kind of disease you have, whether or not you’ve been assaulted or if you have committed a crime…all so they can get a solid picture of who you are.
You now know about data brokers: a whole new industry that reflects our evolving technology. Lawmakers have taken notice of this flourishing industry, trying to get companies to give some control to consumers over what becomes of their data.
At least one data broker makes it possible for you to see how much data is out there about you and to possibly edit and update it. But that’s not enough.
Just how much do data broker companies even know about people?
They build you up from the inside out; starting with skeletal information (name, address, age, race) and padding the meat on from there: education level, medical conditions, income, life events, (buying a home, getting divorced), driving record, law suits against you, credit scores and more. One credit reporting agency even sells lists of the names of people expecting babies and who has newborns. They even sell lists of people who make charitable donations and read romance novels. Data brokers can even get ahold of your
This doesn’t mean that any one data broker knows everything about you. It’s just that a heck of a lot of personal information about you is potentially scattered all over the place. Data brokering is legal: a multi-billion dollar industry involving trillions of transactions every day. But this doesn’t mean the consumer is without rights or power. You can, indeed, do some reclaiming of your name from the data brokering industry.
How do you get control and manage your name?
Sit and wait: As mentioned, lawmakers are putting the heat on data companies to make it possible for consumers to have some control over all of this. The FTC recommended in a 2012 report that the data mining industry establish a website that reveals names of U.S. data brokers plus other relevant information.
- Got to StopDatamine.me: Data brokers have not responded, so someone else did: a site that tells consumers who the data brokers are and their opt-out links.
- Browse “Incognito”: with Googles Chrome browser you can open a “New Incognito Window” once opened, you've gone incognito. Pages you view in incognito tabs won't stick around in your browser's history, cookie store, or search history after you've closed all of your incognito tabs. Any files you download or bookmarks you create will be kept.
- However, you aren't invisible. Going incognito doesn't hide your browsing from your employer, your internet service provider, or the websites you visit.
- Use a VPN: For the ultimate in masking your webcrumbs use Hotspot Shield VPN which acts as a proxy and covers up your IP address and protects your devices and data from Wifi hackers at the same time.
- Plugins: Browsers Chrome and Firefox offer a plethora of addons to mask your browser. DoNotTrackMe is a good one.
- Behave: Yes, just be good, don’t commit any crimes, because you can’t erase bad behavior from government records.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures .