Decipher: What Data Brokers Know About Users

The California Consumer Privacy Act allows consumers to opt-out of having their data shared with third-parties, and to also request to see the data the company has about them. However, the complex web of data sharing and partnerships makes it very difficult for consumers to know who has their data, let alone what is being collected.

Much of the discussion about data collection tend to focus on how the websites and applications the user is interacting with handles data. But all of this gets packaged up—the user-provided information, user activity, and device data such as location—and sold to data brokers. Since data brokers collect information aross many apps, sites, and other brokers, they are able to create comprehensive profiles of individuals, with details about where they have been and their activities. This kind of data is highly valuable for market analytics, advertisers, and other organizations—the data broker industry is estimated to be worth $200 billion—and there is very little transparency or accountability over what happens once user information reaches data brokers.