When online, we reveal information about ourselves constantly. Some of this we’re well aware of; we happily divulge personal information when signing up for platforms, websites, and services. Other instances are less obvious; websites can track our data and our movements across the internet.
In today’s digital world, data is a hot commodity. How do companies track your personal information, and why do they sell it on? Read on to find out and learn how to stop companies profiting from your privacy.
What Data is Collected?
Whatever we do online leaves some kind of trace. There are obvious examples such as logging in to an online account, posting a photo to social media, or sharing a video among friends. However, companies also collect smaller data points, such as the number of times you visit a webpage, how far down the screen you scroll, and how long you spend on a particular platform.
They will also look for things that can identify you, or at least categorise you into a demographic group. This can include things like your geographic location, which is calculated using your IP address, and what kind of device you are using to access the internet.
What do Companies do with Your Data?
First and foremost, companies collect this data to improve the services they provide. For example, if their data analysis has shown that most customers leave their platform after a few seconds, this could indicate they need to make their website more engaging and attractive to better appeal to customers.
However, what do companies do with the data they don’t use? They don’t simply throw it away, instead, they will sell this data to other companies and analysis companies, often turning a tidy profit in the process.
What Does the Law Say?
This might seem like a rather shadowy practice, which is why there are strict laws and regulations in place regarding what companies can do with your data, and what kind of data they can collect and sell.
Laws such as the European GDPR and the UK’s Data Protection Act are there to protect people when interacting with online spaces.
Sensitive information such as financial data and medical records are protected, companies cannot collect, store, or sell this data. Other data that could be used to easily identify someone can be collected, but companies must first get consent to do so.
How Can You Protect Your Data?
If you want to protect your data and stop companies collecting and selling it on, one of the most effective steps you can take is to opt out of data broker platforms. Data brokers aggregate information that they have collected online and then sell it to other companies.
By identifying data brokers that have your personal information and then requesting that it is taken down, you can limit the amount of your personal information being collated and disseminated online.
Companies sell personal data for one reason: money. However, there are steps you can take to stop your personal data from being sold, opting out of data broker platforms is the best place to start.