In recent years, I’ve received – as I’m sure you have as well – countless ads, spam calls, junk mail, etc. and wondered “how did they get my information? It’s no secret that your information is being sold. What I didn’t realize was this: data brokering is a $200 billion industry. So I pose the question: If your information is being sold in such a monstrous industry, how much is your data worth? To data brokers and the companies that use them…and to you?
To Data Brokers and Companies
On average, your email address alone is worth $89 and 80% of US email addresses are already on file with data brokers. But have you ever received compensation for your email address? When you make an account with an online retailer, you know they are obtaining the following information: your name, address, email address, birthdate, credit/debit/billing information, etc. However, they’re also receiving your web activity, monitoring the sites you navigate and how frequently you visit them, what you buy, what you left in your cart. This allows them to target ads on a variety of sites you frequent like Google, Facebook and Youtube. How many times have you looked at a product online only to find a targeted ad moments later on an entirely different website?
Another example is through your local and federal government. By gathering information from the DMV, licenses, permits, voter registration, court records, taxes, education they are able to develop a detailed demographic about each citizen. One of the DMV’s sources of income is through selling drivers’ personal information. In 2017, Florida’s DMV made $77 million from doing this. There are several other states doing this and it is completely legal.
If these companies are making so much money off of your data, why aren’t you being compensated for it? Do you actually own your data? Your information is being treated as a commodity that can be bought and sold. The only question is, why isn’t the person who’s data is being traded, getting a piece of the cut? Yes you get to use services from companies like Google, Facebook, and Youtube for free, but is it a fair deal in comparison to the millions in revenue they receive from it? In reality, a 2019 survey found over 80% of Americans felt they didn’t have control over companies collecting and using their data. Another survey found that 89% of people were willing to share their data in exchange for rewards. Yet if your rewards were monetary, you could be receiving real money for the targeted ads you are already receiving. If you had the ability to control your datas usage, how would you leverage it? Would you sell it, rent it, stay private, or continue to allow companies to profit from your information?
DealNews. “How Online Retailers Collect and Use Consumer Data.” Cult of Mac, 26 May 2016, www.cultofmac.com/430158/how-online-retailers-collect-and-use-consumer-data-deal-news/.
Silver, Charles. “Council Post: Personal Data: Privacy Vs. Compensation.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 16 Sept. 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/09/16/personal-data-privacy-vs-compensation/.
WebFX Team. “What Are Data Brokers – And What Is Your Data Worth? [Infographic].” WebFX Blog, 16 Mar. 2020, www.webfx.com/blog/internet/what-are-data-brokers-and-what-is-your-data-worth-infographic/.
White, Annie. “DMVs Can (And Do) Collect and Sell Your Personal Data.” Car and Driver, Car and Driver, 4 Apr. 2020, www.caranddriver.com/features/a32035408/dmv-selling-driver-data/.