Have you ever stopped and wondered how much of your personal information in available for all to see in the internet? Try Googling your name sometime and see if you can find your address, phone number, etc. It might shock you what you can find.
It is because of the ease of finding out personal information that we now have to deal with data brokers. You have most likely heard of them, although you might not have known their actual title. They are the people who sell your information to businesses. Now, you know who I’m talking about.
They have various methods of retrieving your personal information. They can Google a person, buy the information from an online company (where you had to register to purchase something or just look at the website) or they can get it from free sources. Some businesses just give the information away. What they have in their databases could include:
- Your name
- Your phone number
- Your email address
- Your physical address
- Your Driver’s License number
- Your marital status
- Details about your family members
- Financial information
Many people would consider this to be an enormous breach of privacy. The idea that this kind of information is out there for anyone to see or buy off another person is unnerving.
It is because of these privacy issues that the FTC has started to investigate certain data brokers. One of the main problems they are finding with these companies is that consumers don’t even know they exist. In cases when they know of the data brokers, many times they don’t know how to opt out of them.
The goal of the FTC is to try and make these date broker companies be more public about how they retrieve information, what information they have and what they do with it.
The FTC is trying to do their part to protect you, but the larger part of it is your responsibility. Do what you can to limit the amount of information you put out there on your own. It might not be a good idea to have your phone number on your Facebook page. Start editing the types of pictures you post on Facebook and Flickr, like the one of you holding the ticket you just got for speeding (your driver’s license number is right on it.)
When you are joining a website or a group, make sure you read the fine print before signing and opt out of anything that relates to sharing your information.
If you are really concerned you can even contact the FTC and file a complaint. They probably won’t do anything if there is just one person pushing the issue, but if you can organize a large group you have more chances of them looking into it.
Your privacy is your responsibility. The FTC will do what it can to prevent data brokers from taking advantage of you, but if you keep posting your personal information for the public to see, you’re not doing anything to help the situation.