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 the user seeing ads for that book on other websites they visit. Or if a user spends a lot of time reading comics online, they will likely see more advertisements related to that interest. But while this is the most obvious result of data collection online, it’s far from the only one. The results of data collection online also take the form of personalized user experiences, such as Google Maps being able to know where a user is before they even enter the address of their current location. There are also unseen effects, since there’s a lot of sharing and selling of personal user data behind the scenes that no one really talks about.
Naturally, there are a variety of stances taken on this issue. Some wholeheartedly support…