Data Brokers Know Where You Are — and Want to Sell That Intel

In the end in July, a Catholic priest released from office from the church, after Catholic news site The Pillar released him by Conversions location of data from a data broker in his use of Grindr. The incident doesn’t just illustrate how people might use Grindr data against members of the LGBTQ community. It also points to the dangers of large, shadowy, and unregulated data marketing industry selling real -time locations to Americans to the highest bidder.

In a new report for the Cyber ​​Policy Program at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, I surveyed 10 top data brokers and the sensitive data they advertise. They explicitly and explicitly report data on individual demographic characteristics (from race to gender to income level) and preferences and policy preferences (including support for the NAACP, ACLU, Placed Parenthood, and National LGBTQ Task Force. ), and the current US government. and military personnel. Many of its companies also sell another disturbing product: geo-locations of Americans.

Acxiom, one of the largest brokers data in billions to people all over the world, informed “Location -based device data” of individuals. Need to know if someone has visited a location multiple times in the past 30 days, such as a church, their therapist’s office, or their ex’s house? You have them covered, as a company sales document. What about other perspectives based on the location of individuals? Check out data from marketing firm NinthDecimal, according to a 2018 fact sheet, a “partner” of Acxiom that provides “mobile device location and location context insights.” Military personnel, such as Acxiom, can also be found: It offers “The verification and location of military personnel (deployed but missing from the base)” as part of commercial work for credit card issuers and retail banks.

LexisNexis, another behemoth, informed the ability to “determine where a person is now” using recent driver’s license records. Expert directly informed mobile location data. Oracle, which has made a significant move toward data brokerage over the past decade, informed real-time location-based marketing services of a user. In 2019, Oracle partnered with location data provider Bluedot (one of several partners), who claimed that its data would provide a twenty -fold improvement in pinpointing an individual’s location. Among other factors, Bluedot claims to track the number of times an individual visits a location and how long they have been there. A few years ago, Oracle added PlaceIQ in its data market, a company with data “from 475 million location points, 100 million unique users, and more than 10 billion daily device movements that located. “

Then, of course, there are people -searched sites or “white pages” that allow internet users to search for anyone’s data by entering their name. Scraping property records, tax submissions, voting records, and more, these data brokers compile government and other publicly available documents and make them searchable. to the public, at little or no cost. While they do not announce the real-time geo-locations of individuals, they do provide up-to-date information on where people live.

Perhaps none of this is the bizarre data breach in the aftermath of the data privacy scandal that has shown how closely private companies track the daily lives of Americans. No matter how many companies want to normalize their surveillance, down to the exact sidewalk you stand on or the restaurant you’re sitting in, let’s not forget that data brokers who sell data on its location threaten the rights of civil, national security, and democracy.

In the face of civil rights, federal agencies from the FBI to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement purchase data from data brokers – without orders, public disclosure, or strict control – to BRINGING save all from criminal investigations to eviction. In doing so, data brokers avoid the limitations of companies that directly provide data to law enforcement (for example, a cellular company may sell user data to a data broker that can be sold. the FBI data). Federal government agencies that use the data may also avoid various legal restrictions in place around searches and seizures as well as federal controls that do not enforce “open source” or “commercially obtained” data. , even if the data are US individuals.

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