Someone is selling your personal details—can you stop them?

Your reputation and privacy matter, particularly if you have a high-profile business role. But the details of your life are very likely more exposed than you know. To prove that, just search your name (and company or location if you have a common name) on any search engine, and, amid the usual Facebook and LinkedIn links, you’ll find an assortment of results from sites with names like Spokeo, Yellowbook, BeenVerified, LocatePeople, and MyLife.

Clicking through might get you a partial address or snippet of a phone number, but to get the good stuff, you’ll need to run a full report—which the services tell you will include not just contact details but also such tantalizing tidbits such as arrest records, marriage certificates, social media accounts, and legal judgments.

You’ve hit upon a data broker—and you’d probably be stunned to learn how much they know about you.

Data brokering is legal and practiced by some large and reputable firms, such as Experian and Acxiom, who sell information for legitimate purposes like credit and background checks. But there’s also a large and shadowy corpus of roughly 1,200 companies that specialize in scraping together every bit of information they can find about you and selling it to anyone who’ll pay.

Trading privacy for convenience

“U.S. users, in particular, have traded privacy for convenience and have become numb to the fact that a lot of information about them is just out there,” said Lynn Raynault, president of Hush, a digital privacy protection platform that launched last month.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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