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Should We Be Concerned About How Businesses Use Our Data?

Over the last few years, people around the world have become more aware of data collection but not necessarily its implications.

There are typically two sides to the argument. One side claims that data collection is a serious problem which must be stopped.

The other side doesn’t mind too much about their data being collected, with most presuming that it is going into an anonymous database to target marketing campaigns – something that doesn’t affect their daily life in any way.

But when it comes to the latter argument, there is a sizable underestimation of what businesses can do with data and the way in which it can truly affect them.

So How Can Businesses Use Data?

The first thing to note is that data collection is not just about creating a targeted ad campaign. When browsing online, you can easily click on a data broker site and unknowingly consent to your data being retrieved, assimilated and then sold to third parties.

You might even end up on people-search sites, which can offer your personal information, name, date of birth, gender, job title, address, phone number and more for anyone who wants to buy it.

This can end up increasing your costs, as insurance companies, banks and other institutions can easily glean your details and increase rates and loans based on these details.

This is why it’s important to control your personal information online. If you do not do so, a number of companies can take advantage, and your life, quite simply, can be changed due to the accessibility of your information.

The Ethical Problem

When it comes to businesses utilising data,  it’s also important to understand why targeted marketing schemes are harmful. While online, we as consumers are far more isolated from advertising than we are out in the real world.

The reason this is bad is because it makes us more vulnerable to specific ads. Having collected our data, ads can play on our specific vulnerabilities, potentially even enabling an existing problem.

As well as this, targeted ads can simultaneously cut off other opportunities that we didn’t know existed. For instance, ads for furniture might override ads for health, which can have a particularly negative effect on a consumer simply through omission.

Not only are targeted ads problematic, then, but they are also implicitly negative in their nature. According to recent statistics, 80% of consumers are concerned about their personal data being collected and used by businesses, and their concerns are well-founded.

With the data broker industry set to go beyond $350 billion by 2030, how far could businesses go to glean more information, and when does it become an ethical disaster? Some data broker companies have already been charged with sharing personal information of vulnerable elderly people to scammers, cruelly naming their collection the “suckers lists”.

While many businesses aren’t looking to scam consumers with their data, having that data in their ownership – to do with as they choose – is not necessarily a comforting thought. This is why it is so important to remain aware of the situation and do everything in your power to opt out of data brokers, effectively taking back control of your own data while you’re on the internet.

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