The Entire History of You Is Being Sold
Every moment, servers are logging, cataloging, and selling your personal, private information.
It’s not just your credit score.
Your utility bill payments, cell phone records, insurance payments, auto history, court records, credit score, identity information, social security records, address history and hundreds of other pieces of information are amassed into giant data warehouses where it’s packaged and sold to data farms, lenders, and banks.
Depending on your demographic and where you live, your personal data can be worth upwards of $100 per year, or more. To see the sheer size of the industry, Experian, Equifax, Transunion amassed over $10B in revenue from the sale of personal information.
This a prevalent business that is also seen through tech companies like Facebook and Google. These businesses make huge amounts of revenue off of owning your data and in turn, selling your data.
This calls into question: What responsibility do companies bear when it comes to holding your data?
This debate is most notably seen in the recent headlines of the scandal with Cambridge Analytica, which worked with Donald Trump’s election team to collect data on Facebook users to influence votes. The data breach impacted over 87 million users. Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress on this topic.
In the case of the credit bureaus, nothing you can do will protect you from these businesses profiting off of the backs of your daily habits.
You can't opt out.
Theoretically, you could live an all-cash lifestyle. This would mean never requesting credit from any bank or any lender, but even then your information could still wind up being sold to the credit companies through non-credit sources like cable or phone companies, property tax bills, or doctors' offices.
The Great Debate: Who Owns Your Data?
Have you ever gotten a “pre-approval” card in the mail? If you have, this means that the sending company bought your data, mined it, and thought you were valuable enough to send you an offer for a product which, in turn, makes them even more money off of you.
"It's a pretty simple business model, actually. They gather as much information about you from lenders, aggregate it, and sell it back to them," said Brett Horn, an industry analyst with Morningstar.
The data industry is a murky one.
Riddled with scams, dark markets, and illegal underground sources of data, the problem is only getting worse. According to the latest reports from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an estimated 10,000 different companies and sources report information about you to Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Analysts’ figures show that number climbing to more than 30,000 in the next 10 years.
In 2017, Equifax was hacked, leaking the private information of more than 145 million Americans. This was one of the most notable leaks in recently history.
Additionally, two years before that, 123 million American households had sensitive information publicly exposed due to the negligence of Alteryx, a marketing analytics firm. These details included street addresses, demographics, and finances for families, as well as private information pertaining to house and auto ownership. It turns out that the firm got this information from Experian, which collected and sold the firm the data as part of its “ConsumerView” product for marketers.