Online Privacy And Business Analysis

2318 Words 10 Pages
Introduction The rise of the internet has led to the creation of an industry based solely in gathering and selling mass amounts of user data. The companies who work in this industry are called data brokers. This term can be used to describe companies that only work in this business, such as Epsilon or Acxiom, but it can also be used to describe other companies that collect data like Facebook and Google. They collect and distribute information on consumers, and lately a lot of that collecting has taken place online. Most of the effects of this kind of data collection are also primarily visible online. To internet users, the most visible result of this is targeted advertising. For example, searching for a book on Amazon could easily lead to …show more content…
Google says that it gives collected data to “our affiliates or other trusted businesses or persons” (Google). Facebook gives user data to “vendors, service providers, and other partners who globally support our business” (Facebook). Those are quotes directly from their respective privacy policies, and they are frighteningly vague. Who are these companies? What will they do with the data? How is an internet user supposed to know what they’re agreeing to? Personal data can end up in the hands of sites that the user has never been on or heard of if the original company sees fit. Sometimes this means giving data to advertising companies so they can target their ads appropriately. But sometimes, the data is passed on or sold in its raw form. That’s how companies like Spokeo make their money. Spokeo is a data broker that sells personal information on individual users. Everything from hobbies and names of family members to phone numbers and email addresses can be accessed for the right price, or so the company claims (Spokeo). This is where things move from invasive to downright dangerous. Anyone can buy this information. Criminals can buy this information. Former abusers and stalkers can buy this information. Because a user agreed to share personal information elsewhere, sites like Spokeo feel free to gather and sell the information as they please. It’s horrifying that data brokers can get away with extrapolating these …show more content…
But that’s the problem. Many data brokers purposefully keep the public from knowing the full story. That’s awfully ironic, given the amount of information they collect from internet users. In 2012, the United States Senate tried to get a better idea of what data brokers were doing by asking how data brokers got their data. The Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation found that while some data brokers were forthcoming about their sources, many major companies “refused to identify to the Committee their specific data sources” and instead “described general categories of sources - such as ‘surveys’ and ‘public records’.” (Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation). Even the U.S. Government, which is every bit as invasive as the data brokers, can’t get a straight answer. And unfortunately, the general public hasn’t been given anything less vague to work with either. So any lack of information is a result of the severe lack of transparency plaguing the data broker industry, which is a problem itself. The fact that no one knows exactly what’s happening to their data is

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