Think about how much information you share about yourself online. Some of this information you may be fine with spreading, while some of it you may want to be private. However, you may not have a choice about what information stays private, if any at all. This is because there are companies on the internet that are tracking your every digital move, and they are looking to sell everything about you.
These are companies that are called data brokers. They take user’s information, and can sell it to advertisers, the government, and others to earn a profit. This is a system called “data marketing,” and it is being used all throughout the internet. Lots of the information that they are collecting is harmless and typically used for advertising. However, with the increasing ability to track information, they are collecting and selling everything that they can find.
It is unknown how many companies data mine exactly, but according to observer.com, it is significant. Companies use this information to target specific ads to consumers. Every piece of information you enter on a website, even if you don’t enter things like your name or email, can be traced back to you. This is possible because data brokers create personal profiles for individual people. With these, it is near impossible to hide from these companies.
There are not many places on the internet where you are safe from data brokers collecting your information. Now, even Google is involved in data marketing. Every time you use their services (Google Search, Gmail, Google Maps, etc), they collect the information you input. It’s not just on Google’s websites, either. According to techcrunch.com, Google has their tracking programs installed in over 10 million websites. With the dominance Google has over the internet, they can easily take whatever information they want from you and, according to techcrunch.com, sell it for billions.
An example of a large company in this field is Acxiom. According to cbsnews.com they have about 1,500 pieces of information on more than 200 million Americans. After 9/11, there was a great need for increased security, and Acxiom, along with other select companies, pushed the government to help with their data collecting. These companies provided the government with the ability to collect information on millions of people online for surveillance. Because of their connections, Acxiom reportedly made over about $800 million in revenue just last year. Even though Acxiom is a large company, it is not known of exactly how they get their information. In this industry, there are plenty of companies that function just like Acxiom, and many are also backed by the government.
Your online presence is not as private as you may think it is. It is collected and sold to companies so that free-to-use websites can make money. We are all on the internet frequently and are all vulnerable to data brokers. When you visit these websites, remember that they are not “free.” You pay for these websites with your information.