What are data brokers and how are they abusing your data?

Data is worth a lot of money, most people know that now. However few really understand how money is made from data, the data market. That is because the majority of market participants operate behind the scenes.

In previous research, we calculated how much Big Tech is earning from user data. In this article, we’ll explore the players operating in the shadows, the ones actually collecting and selling your data.

You have probably never heard of Acxiom, CoreLogic, and Epsilon. There is a reason for that. They like to keep quiet. These are some of the largest companies that earn revenue by collecting, aggregating, and selling user data. According to Norton, there are some 4000+ data brokers which collectively earn around $200bn a year from selling user data.

What data do they collect?

As an example, if you are not satisfied with your current relationship, a data broker will want to know. They might find this by looking at your browsing behavior and the tone of your social media posts. This data is sold to companies that want to target you with products they believe you need. By knowing your interests and state of mind, the targeting can be done in a very effective way. Sometimes that is great. But without consent and an understanding of why you see an ad, it can lead to misdirection.

How is the information collected?

How do they sell it?

A company could for example buy this data to run a background check on a new hire. However, the information data brokers sell is very often incorrect data. Also, the lack of transparency in this market causes an information asymmetry problem. Companies will know information about you without your knowledge. This causes an unbalanced relationship and leads to a form of exploitation.

The party is ending

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