4 Ways to Combat Data Brokers

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Are you familiar with the data brokerage industry? In the business of storing and selling the personal information of billions of people worldwide, data brokers are part of a sector that’s worth an estimated $200 billion. That’s no small chunk of change, which explains why data is viewed by many commentators as one of the most valuable commodities of the 21st century.

Unfortunately, harvesting and selling your data is a completely legal practice, even if some of the purposes to which that data is put by the buyers in the transaction is not lawful. However, there are certain precautions you can take to ensure it’s more difficult for data brokers to store and sell your data going forwards.

Disable cookies

Cookies are pretty much ubiquitous on the internet these days. From search engines to social media platforms to service providers to retail websites, it seems as though everyone tracks your behavior online. You can avoid this breadcrumb trail of your movements by opting out of user agreements and privacy policies, as well as using a search engine (such as Google Incognito) which does not enable cookies as standard. These are imperfect solutions, but they’re at least a step in the right direction.

Remove existing data

Of course, disabling cookies from here on in will make it trickier for brokers to collect your data in the future, but it won’t address the reams of personal information that they already store about you. For this, you’ll need to manually request that each broker delete the files they hold on you. Since there are literally thousands of brokers out there, it’s more efficient to enlist the services of a company like Incogni, which automatically send requests for existing data to be removed.

Use decoy personal information

Although many sites will require you to sign up with them to take advantage of their services, special offers and promotions, you’re under no obligation to use your real info. Having a decoy email address and phone number which you don’t mind filling up with spam is a great way to avoid being inundated with mail you don’t want, while you can even enhance your anonymity further by using a fake name, too. Of course, there are occasions when you’re legally obliged to use your actual identity, so practice this technique with caution to avoid falling foul of the law.

Change your privacy settings

While sign-up forms and cookie agreements are the main ways in which brokers harvest your data, there are umpteen others, too. Every app you download onto your phone and every smart device you have enabled in your home will collect information about you, for example. To limit their ability to collect and sell this data, you can tweak your privacy settings to minimize access and exert greater control over your personal information.

Of course, the only sure-fire way to prevent data brokers from amassing information about you is to steer clear of the internet altogether. That nuclear solution is too drastic for most people, however, so the tips above can at least keep them in check as much as possible.

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