Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Do you know what people know about you?  Do you know how much information is out there about you?  Do you even know how they are collecting your information?  Who are they?  Why should they even care about me anyway?  Am I giving them information when I participate in a survey?  These are all questions hovering about our privacy and our private lives.  Nothing is private anymore.  Do you even know that your life is big business now?  There are thousands of companies you’ve never heard of that know a lot about you.  They are called data brokers.  They are collecting, analyzing and packaging some of our sensitive personal information and selling it as a commodity.

They sell the information to each other, the government, to advertisers often without our direct knowledge.  It used to be harmless consumer marketing that has been going on for decades but not anymore.  This is not harmless.  This is finding out stuff about us that we hardly even know about us.  Do you even have time to analyze yourself?  What has changed recently in the amount of data they are collecting from our phones and our favorite Internet sites especially places like Facebook.  And the growth of the multi billion dollar industry that operates in the shadows with virtually no oversight.  In the past it was a system of just collecting names, addresses and asking people to fill out questionnaires so they can offer discounts and send catalogs.

The newest data  collecting monsters are tracking where you live and even trying to collect your DNA with blood tests, urine tests and cheek saliva samples all to keep track of you.  People even give a lot of private information about themselves on Facebook when they talk about their heart attacks or illnesses to friends meanwhile there is a search engine without your permission keeping track of what you say to others.  Even things like our likes and dislikes, our closest friends, our bad habits even our daily movements are  being tracked by GPS in our phones and cars.  The Federal Trade Commission , Julie Brill even notes that we have lost control over our most personal information.  Then do something about it woman!  Isn’t the Federal government supposed to protect us and not use us?

The information is a profile about us.  They call themselves research firms.  The largest data broker is Acxiom a marketing giant that brags that on average 15 hundred pieces of information on more than 200,000,000 Americans.  It is much harder for Americans to get information about this company.  How is that fair at all?  The company is vague in disclosing how they get their  information and who they are selling it to.  Where are the lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union taking care of us about Americans public policy?  It sounds like they are working against us and not for us.  They knew our religion, user names, political affiliations, income and family medical information.  They also know medications, alcoholism, depression, Psychiatric  problems, history of genetic problems, cancer, heart disease you name it they have us all listed into various categories sometimes based on what we tell friends and relatives or medical records or anything said on line.

The problem I have with all this is that we don’t know this is going on and we don’t have access to our own information.  Our lives are literally for sale and they are  making money on us.  Our sexual orientation is even listed somewhere based on information gathered from the types of things we purchase, what clubs we’re going to, what bars and restaurants we are making purchases at and what types of products we buy online.  This information can be sold to a perspective employer without our permission or even knowledge.  Welcome to the future.  That book  1984, predicted nothing compared to how little privacy you have.

If you know where to look, data brokers can be found pedaling all kinds of sensitive information.  The Connecticut  data broker called Statistics  comprises lists of gay and lesbian adults.  A company called Response Solutions lists people suffering from bi- polar disorder.   Paramount Media is a company in Erie Pennsylvania offering lists of people with alcohol, sexual and gambling addictions and people desperate to get out of debt.  A Chicago company called Exact Data, is brokering the names of people who have had sexually transmitted disease as well as lists of people who have purchased adult material and sex toys.  Every piece of data about us seems to be worth something to somebody and lots more people are willing to give up information they do business with some states department of motor vehicles to pizza places.

Why?  Because it becomes a secondary source of income.  They will make money on the pizza you buy as well as telling somebody whatever  they know about you.  Ethics is gone in society.  Money talks.  And for a price  someone will sell your heart and soul.

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