How to Stop Websites From Selling Your Personal Data and Information
Your personal data is being sold. It may even be sold to cybercriminals. This article discusses the legalities related to the sale of your personal information. It also discusses how companies are selling your data to third-party companies. And, most importantly, it details the actions to take, and the methods to use to stop websites from selling your personal data and information.
In a hurry? Skip ahead to the section detailing the methods to use to stop websites from selling your personal information.
Most of us realize that companies are collecting and selling our data every time we visit their websites. But we may not realize to what extent it is happening. Also, we don’t even know who these companies are that are collecting and selling our personal information. There are hundreds of companies collecting and selling our personal data. The importance of stopping these websites from selling your personal data must be realized.
Companies are collecting and selling information about you. They want to know what you buy online, where you go online, and even what you look at online. There must be a way to stop websites from selling your personal data. When we visit websites we are continually giving away precious data for free. The data includes images we upload of our family and pets, the search terms we use on Google, and our location at the time we do any of these things.
Many websites are setup to take advantage of personal data in such a way that the collection process is automatic. We visit the website and the special code within it sets off a chain of preprogrammed modules that can efficiently make the most of our data. The data is then sold to data brokers, marketing firms, and advertising agencies. Companies in the United States alone spend more than $19 billion annually purchasing our personal data, and other information relevant to our behaviors.
What Should We Consider Personal Data?
There are several different types of personal data. Some types are more sensitive than others. We realize that our banking details, health records, and social security numbers make up a big part of our most sensitive data. This type of personal data is sought by hackers and cybercriminals. It is usually obtained through illegal means and then sold illegally to the highest bidder on the “Dark Web”.
Then there’s the bulk of our personal information that is not so sensitive and is collected and sold legally by hundreds, if not thousands, of different companies. This less-sensitive data includes images we upload of our family and pets, the search terms we use on Google, and our location at any given time. Even the data that indicates we stayed home and watch a movie on television is of value to these many companies.
All of this personal data is collected in many different ways. We visit websites that have some explanation of what they do with our data hidden deep within their terms-of-use agreements. Websites are collecting and selling our personal data and using these buried clauses within their terms to legally collect our personal, and sometimes confidential information.
What is a Data Broker?
Data brokers are companies that are constantly collecting information about us, the consumers. They classify the data according to context and sell it to interested parties. When a data broker is collecting our information there are many times when we have no idea they are doing it, and therefore have no way to stop them from collecting and selling our information. We are not on their website or at their business, yet they have ways to get their hands on our personal data, and sometimes sensitive information.
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There are different types of data brokers
There are three main data broker categories that data brokers can be classified as.:
- Marketing Focused Data Brokers — These data brokers compile folders of information on individuals. They collect types of information that can be used in a targeted marketing campaign. The information collected is categorized according to interests, family size and makeup, ethnicity, level of education, income, and age. Sub-categories are added for deeper targeting.
- People Search Focused Data Brokers — These data brokers collect names, aliases, interests, affiliations, addresses and address history, birthdates, and education information. They also collect employment history, marriage information, bankruptcy, property records, information on relatives. The information collected is sold to operators of people search sites like Peoplesmart and PeekYou.
- ID Analytics Focused Data Brokers — The information that these data brokers collect can be sold to companies that will use it to help detect fraud and verify identities. This information typically is beneficial to law-abiding consumers unless the information is incorrect. There are also times when the information is correct but matches the records of a bad actor and then can be detrimental to you.
Some of these brokers get the information directly from website owners and that is a reason to stop websites from collecting your personal data. The less personal data collected about you and your everyday life the better.
Is it illegal for companies to collect and sell your personal data
The way websites and data brokers typically collect and sell your data is perfectly legal. There are some states that put more regulations on personal data collection than other states, but overall the data collection industry is mostly unregulated. Even with regulations in place many companies find ways around the regulations and can continue collecting our personal data.
For instance, some data brokers align their business to meet the requirements of a digital phone book company and are not required to abide by the rules and regulations of states like California and Vermont. Those states make websites offer the user an opportunity to request that their personal data is not sold, but it requires the user to click a link at the bottom of the page on the website they are visiting.
There has to be a better way. There is a way to stop websites from selling your personal data. That’s what the Global Privacy Control can do. Read on to find out how to stop websites from selling your personal data.
How to Opt-Out and Stop Websites From Selling Your Personal Information
Currently, the way to do it is to opt out of a long list of data brokers. Below there is a resource that lists all the data brokers and where you can opt-out. That’s the bad news.
Here’s the Good News
There is a group of privacy-focused researchers and companies that have developed a technical standard that will allow you to opt-out of the sale of your data by companies all over the world, by switching one common switch. The tool will be part of your browser and will have the functionality that enables your browser to send a signal to all compliant websites telling them not to sell your data. It’sa Global Privacy Control.
The Global Privacy Control is currently in beta test mode. It is being tested within California’s new privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). This is the first step to truly having a global opt-out switch. This will provide a simple and easy way for you, the consumers, to stop websites from selling your personal data. This is a way down the road, perhaps years.
For now it is necessary to opt-out of the individual data broker sites. It is possible to get off data broker sites but is time consuming. If you decide to do this then start with the high-priority sites (found at the resource below). There are also paid solutions listed in the resource.
Read more: Online safety for Our Children
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