The internet is an invaluable resource that keeps us connected and gives us access to a myriad of information.
According to recent estimates, there are 5.18 billion internet users today, which makes it 65% of the world population.
Yet, this man-made wonder doesn’t come without its cons. Whenever you visit a website, send or receive an email, or sign up for a streaming service trial, you leave a trail of revealing data behind.
This data is highly desirable to data brokers, which are companies that aggregate and disseminate your information for a profit.
If you wish to remove your personal information from the internet, continue reading as we discuss the risks of data brokers and how to use automated data removal tools to protect yourself.
The Hidden Dangers Of Data Brokers
In essence, data brokers harvest personal data from a variety of online and offline sources.
These include social media platforms, public records, and web browsing history among others. This information is later sold to commercial advertisers, risk mitigation agencies, and people search sites.
This means that your personal information (email address, phone number, place of residence, health status, etc.) can end up in the databases of companies you have no connection with, and who may use it without your explicit consent. This can include anything from telemarketing, spam, and financial discrimination.
Perhaps one of the most concerning dangers of data brokering is the higher risk of cyberattacks.
When your information is on multiple databases, you’re more vulnerable to falling victim to a breach that can further compromise your privacy.
Research reveals that hacks of data brokers have affected over 445 million user records. The U.S. has suffered the most, with about 210 million American records exposed in these breaches.
Are Data Brokers Legal?
While data brokers represent a significant danger to the privacy and security of your data, they aren’t illegal. Many of the internet services and sites we typically frequent are free to use.
However, they come with a hidden cost and that is your information. Whenever you visit a website, for example, a consent box pops up. It requests permission to share your data with third parties.
If you don’t consent, you won’t be able to access the site. And this is how internet users give permission for their data to be collected and shared.
There are other methods that brokers use to get your information. As mentioned above, people share details about themselves on their public profiles and social media, which can be easily collected and sold.
In fact, Facebook and Google—online services with billions of users—are often regarded as data brokers.
Yet, they aren’t alone in their practices, with companies, such as Experian, Acxiom, LiveRamp, CoreLogic, and Epsilon running some of the largest information brokering operations in actuality.
Regaining Control With Automated Data Removal
Once your data is on the internet, it becomes nearly impossible to regain control over it.
With that in mind, one of the best strategies to protect your online data is minimizing the amount of personal details you share online.
Avoid enrolling in loyalty schemes, subscribing to virtual newsletters and services unless it is strictly necessary, and disclosing personally identifiable information on social media.
Using tools like VPNs, firewalls, and privacy-oriented search engines, such as DuckDuckGo can help you reduce your digital footprint.
Those who have been using the internet for a while could benefit from contacting data brokers who may have collected their data.
Usually, these companies have opt-out forms that you can fill out to get your information removed from their records.
However, the business of selling your data is a lucrative one, so these companies often make the removal request process time-consuming and difficult to navigate.
Moreover, because there are hundreds of data brokers out there, your data may end up in multiple databases.
Here’s where automated data removal comes in. If you wish to remove your personal information from the internet effectively, several online services can do so on your behalf.
Incogni, for example, will monitor several data broker sites and automatically carry out the takedown process.
The service also includes follow-up scans to ensure the data isn’t re-added—a common occurrence in the information-selling market.
Your personal data—from your name to your phone and Social Security number—is harvested and traded online for a profit.
Removing yourself and regaining control is a cumbersome and tedious process. Automated data removal services tackle this problem by opting out of data brokers on your behalf and saving hundreds of hours of your time.
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