These days, it’s pretty much impossible to visit a new website or download a new app without being greeted by a long and tedious document filled with technical jargon and too many clauses. Variously known as privacy policies and data collection agreements, these tomes ask for our permission to harvest our personal information.
Since data brokerage is a business estimated at hundreds of billions of dollar in worth, companies make it purposefully difficult to reject this request. In certain cases, they may prohibit use of their services entirely if the user refuses to grant permission. Nonetheless, we believe it’s highly important to always opt out of the agreement, regardless of how onerous a process it may seem. Here’s why.
An unregulated industry
Although data protection laws are becoming gradually stronger, they are still sorely lacking when it comes to the business of harvesting, storing and selling our personal information. This means that in essence, your data can be sold to the highest bidder and not everyone has your best interests in mind. The lack of regulation also often goes hand-in-hand with a lack of security, which can allow cyber criminals to steal your data and use it to commit theft, fraud, blackmail or any number of other nasty crimes.
There has been much spoken about the need for companies to safeguard the data they harbor, for fear of the reputational hit they may suffer in the case of a breach. However, the risk can be just as great for an individual as a business. For example, the high-profile story of a top Catholic priest based in Wisconsin went viral in 2021, after his phone data was obtained by a newspaper, which then publicized his subscription to Grindr (a dating platform for homosexuals). The priest was forced to withdraw from the clergy as a result.
Another keen recipient of your personal data are banking and financial institutions, who will often use it to ascertain whether or not your credit rating is good enough to qualify for their products and services. As such, being lax about opting out of privacy agreements could see you miss out on that loan you need or the insurance you require. Of course, data brokerage isn’t solely responsible for this phenomenon, but every little helps when it comes to portraying the best financial version of yourself to relevant parties.
Aggressive marketing campaigns
Probably the most benign reason mentioned on this list, targeted ads can be every bit as annoying as other outcomes experienced through the storage and sale of your personal data. In the best-case scenarios, they’re merely a creepy invasion of your privacy. In the worst, they could leverage sensitive information about your health, your religious or political beliefs or your financial situation to target you with specific products. That raises serious moral questions about the ethics of online data collection.
Thankfully, there is a way to decrease the amount of your personal information being available for sale on data broker sites.. All you need to do is to leverage the data privacy laws available in your country and follow these handy A to Z of opt-out guides to tackle the opt out process yourself, or else you can employ a third-party company like Incogni to put in all the hard yards for you. Either way, opting out is crucial to staying safe, secure and anonymous online.