You are simply a commodity – or, at least, your personal data is.
As you browse the internet, shop online, subscribe to magazines, take part in a quiz, order a prescription, or simply engage on social media, big data companies are in the background, quietly collecting all of your personal information.
The recent Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal put the spotlight directly on the world of data mining and its uses. Data brokers take all this personally identifiable information (PII) and bundle it up. Effectively, your data self is being packaged up and sold every single day.
You may not be aware that these companies operate in this way, but it can lead to questions like:
- What is a data broker?
- What are they collecting about me, and what is its use?
- How do they get my information?
- Are there any dangers to me?
Here we look at the answers to these questions – and what these companies mean to you.
What is a data broker?
A data broker is a company that can collect, analyse, package, and sell your information.
What do they collect and how is it used?
All data is relevant to a data broker, and they can make financial use of everything from your name, address and email, to whether or not a pet is present in your home, right through to job title, income bracket, health records, and credit status.
Your information is then sold on to companies who use this information for a range of purposes, marketing of products, detecting fraud, and establishing identity.
Data is collected from thousands of locations, harvested from governments, commercial, and publicly available sources. So every time you enter a quiz, sign up to a loyalty card and so forth, your data is captured. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, WhatsApp and LinkedIn, all compile your personal information to target you too.
Typically there are two types of data brokers:
Marketing products: Companies like Experian and Acxiom, who package your data and resell it to other companies for marketing campaigns
Risk mitigation: Used for background checking when you apply for a job or new position, or credit checks for credit cards and loans.
What are the dangers?
Storing detailed information on an individual can be risky. In 2015, Experian had a data breach where 15 million T-Mobile consumer accounts were affected. In 2017, Equifax had a similar breach affecting 145 million people. Recently, Dixons Carphone announced 5.9 million consumer records, including payment details, were hacked. Your data is valuable – so illegal hackers will continue to try to get their hands on it.
This is where blockchain technologies come in. Writing for CSO in June Michelle Drolet, founder of data security services provider Towerwall, noted the potential for blockchain having a positive impact, due to its decentralised nature, being virtually impossible to hack, as well as being either private or public.
This can be considered the best of both worlds. At Your Data Safe, for example, our mission statement is to help consumers take back control of their personal data. You own your data and are free to share as much as you want to with the brands you choose, whilst getting rewarded for it. The data is stored and securely encrypted in a self-sovereign wallet, which means there is no desire to gather information which could be out of date or incorrect. Users simply add in the information they wish to be used, and then we reward you for allowing its use. It really is that simple.
When the Cambridge Analytica storm broke, attention turned to the largest tech companies and what data they share, with the result being hand-wringing blog posts and testimonies in front of the US Congress. What’s more, the numbers regarding data breaches – both in number and size – continue to rise.
For many consumers, enough is enough. It’s time to fight back and put the user in control.
Editor’s note: Find out more about Your Data Safe’s upcoming campaigns here – the private sale has been active since August 1, with the pre-public token sale commencing on October 1 and the public crowd sale beginning on November 1.