“There are other ways they utilize personal information that secure their market position and still bring them monopoly revenues without having to sell information,” said Dipayan Ghosh, a former Facebook executive who is now co-director of the Digital Platforms & Democracy Project at Harvard.
Instead, these companies aggregate users’ data and sell advertisers access to them based on categories such as age bracket, geographic region, buying habits or hobbies.
Data brokers are different. They scoop up loads of personal information from various sources, combine and organize it, then sell it to advertisers. For example, they sell lists of people:
Data brokers may know:
A review by Fast Company found 121 data brokers operating in the United States, calling it a “bustling economy that operates largely in the shadows, and often with few rules.”
Under California’s privacy act, data brokers will have to add a button to their websites allowing people to opt out of having their information sold. But many people have no clue who these data brokers are, or how to find the websites where they can click on an opt-out button. So California enacted a follow-up law that will create a state registry of data brokers — but it won’t be available until January 2021.