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TLC Workshop: The Data Detective

This guide outlines the issues with data brokers, the information they collect and privacy issues.

What Happens to the Collected Data?

  • ​The data collected can be combined with other data sets to identify individuals
  • The data can be sold to other companies;
  • The data can be used to predict future behavior;
  • The data can be used for targeted marketing;


Data Can Be Combined With Other Data Sets

Data can be combined with other data sets to further define individuals.  

​How does this work? 

  • Even if the data collected is by two different data brokers, they can be combined to identify a person.  For example, a person's GPS location can be matched with their address, therefore giving access to their name.  
  • ​This gives data brokers (or other entities) access to information that was not originally given or allowed.  


The Data Can Be Used For Targeted Marketing

​Each time someone swipes their credit card, uses an app that tracks through GPS or uses their smartphone to search, the information provided gives data brokers information to create profiles.  

  • ​The company 'Acxiom' reports that they collect over 5,000 attributes about a consumer.  The company stated that they could predict future consumer behavior using this information by linking it to actual purchasing data and online browsing behavior.
  • ​GPS tracking, enabled by phone users who give permission via apps, provide detailed information to data brokers regarding everyday behavior including work locations, doctor visits, organizations visited and any other day to day minutiae.

Data Can Be Used to Predict Behavior

​Data collected and sold is being used to predict people's behavior and make assumptions regarding life choices.

Some examples include:

  • ​Predictive Policing:  Individuals are targeted regarding their likelihood to commit violent crimes.
  • Medication Adherence Scores: Predicting who will stop taking their medication before they become noncompliant.
  • ​Profiling: Using social media data to predict a person's race, sexual orientation and political party to send targeted ads. 


What Else Can Happen to Your Data?

​Data breaches have been plaguing companies for years with hackers becoming more sophisticated and systems becoming more vulnerable.  

  • In 2017, Equifax had a data breach that affected 146 million accounts, with information regarding credit cards and loans plus other information pertaining to credit scores (i.e. personal addresses, payment information, banking details) stolen.
  • ​In 2015, Experian's servers, which hosted information for T-Mobile, was hacked, exposing 15 million records.
  • ​Also in 2015, Yahoo had a breach that exposed 500 million accounts.
  • ​Facebook is still facing charges from the FTC for their data sharing privacy breach with  outside developers from 2014.  Facebook sold profile information for millions of accounts to a developer who then sold it to a data analytics company.