Who Are the Data Brokers?
At first glance it may be less than obvious, but every person is a bearer of some valuable information. What clothes do you wear? Do you prefer PG or Twinings? Do you drive Chevrolet or Toyota? Is your marriage coming up? Have you paid your mortgage yet? Answers to all of these questions are a real treasure to the data brokers.
Consumers under the microscope
Data brokers are a relatively new type of marketing business. These companies closely study preferences and likes of people. They collect, categorize and store this information. Later it may be sold to various entities:
- Big brands,
- Private individuals,
- PR/marketing companies,
- Even bigger data brokers.
It is done to help companies target their audience more effectively, offering them the products they might be intrigued by. E.g. fans of the Lexus Club page in Facebook will be offered ads on car tyres or Geico insurance. Adepts of healthy lifestyle may be bombarded with the granola bar, gym subscription, soy milk promo-banners etc.
Data brokers process all types of info: Google search requests, purchases made via credit cards, pages followed on social media, consumer’s personal interests. Even sensitive private data won’t slip away: phone digits, birth date, social security number, age, gender, full name and so on.
Biggest data game players
Typically, data brokers can be divided into a few classes:
- Marketing — these data brokers collect a dossier on an individual, to offer them personally “tailored” package of products.
- Personal— they gather all the private info possible: phone number, address, education and even blood type.
- ID checking — the least intrusive type of brokers, who help their clients identify potential scammers by checking if the information provided by them is legit or not.
As of now, the list of prominent data brokers includes:
- ID Analytics.
- Recorded Future.
- Capital Markets
- Cambridge Analitica.
Databases of these firms include hundreds of millions of people. For example, Cambridge Analitica supposedly owns psychological portraits of 200+ million Americans, stashed on their servers. Although, their methods and ways can be beneficial for businesses, it’s not unlikely that data brokers will be regulated more strictly in the foreseeable future.