Companies are aggregating your personal data (location, email, home address, phone number, age, gender, search history, what apps you use, time of day you do it, and much more). Your phone is actively pushing this data out from most of the apps you use and it happens without your knowledge.
You can opt-out and use tools to stop the leaking.
Your personal data is leaked by many apps on your smartphone and online browsing. Data brokers merge that data to get a complete picture of who you are. You can opt out and stop the leak.
Personal data is big business and it isn’t all bad
Is this all bad?
It is not all bad. If you have ever been spooked a little on the internet (or using apps on your phone) and saw an advertisement for something you exactly need – you are being tracked. Many people find this OK. When you are directed to something you want to purchase and the advertiser closes a sale, everyone wins.
It can also lead to what I would frame as somewhat unethical. From Norton:
…will use it to determine how likely it is that you’ll default on a personal loan. Still, others might use it to determine how likely it is that you will file an insurance claim or get into an auto accident.https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-privacy-how-data-brokers-find-and-sell-your-personal-info.html
Wired goes much farther by stating that it is a threat to democracy
Data brokerage is a threat to democracy. Without robust national privacy safeguards, entire databases of citizen information are ready for purchase, whether to predatory loan companies, law enforcement agencies, or even malicious foreign actors. Federal privacy bills that don’t give sufficient attention to data brokerage will therefore fail to tackle an enormous portion of the data surveillance economy, and will leave civil rights, national security, and public-private boundaries vulnerable in the process.https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-data-brokers-are-a-threat-to-democracy/
According to WebFX, the data brokering industry is a $200 billion industry. They said:
Today, there are over 4,000 data brokering companies worldwide. Acxiom, one of the largest, has 23,000 servers collecting & analyzing consumer data, Data for 500 million consumers worldwide, and up to 3,000 data points per person – and that’s just one company.https://www.webfx.com/blog/internet/what-are-data-brokers-and-what-is-your-data-worth-infographic/
What can you do?
There are a lot of ways you can hide yourself and many are what I categorize as great, but not terribly practical for most folks. I recommend opting out of the data gathering companies and using privacy tools to significantly reduce your personal data from shedding.
You can opt out and remove your data
Opting out is challenging. The how and where changes all the time and companies don’t make it straightforward. Yael Grauer created ‘The go-to” resource for finding out how to remove your data from the top data brokers and preventing them from selling your data. It has a great name, Big Ass Data Broker Opt-Out List.
You can stop the leaks
There are many tools that will prevent your data from being collected without your knowledge. While this is not a review of all the options out there, here is what I recommend using right now.
Action item! Take five minutes and install the first two apps if you are on desktop or the last one if you are on an iPhone.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has a great blog and tools that I use.
Privacy Badger – In my experience, the best and easiest to setup browser extension to stop websites from collecting tracking data without your consent.
HTTPS Everywhere – This extension forces sites to use HTTPS to encrypt your communications between you and the server to increase your privacy.
Cover your tracks – Check your browser to see if you are leaking data to third parties. This is a great test to see if your efforts are working.
Lockdown – iPhone and Mac app which is the world’s first on-device, open source blocker that stops ads, trackers, and badware in all your apps. Lockdown was founded by two former Apple engineers Johnny Lin and Rahul Dewan.
By opting out of data brokers, using simple tools you can improve the security of your personal privacy.
Also of note, I’m not getting referral cash or sponsored by any of these applications in any way.