What are information brokers?

Information brokers are a relatively recent phenomenon, the result of technological advancements in data storage and collection. These companies and people will use public records and private sources to collect your personal data and create a profile on you. Once they have that, they'll sell it to other people and other companies.

Most brokers have private sources of information that they won't share. However, the team at RecordSweeper, through research and experience, has been able to figure out the following sources are the most commonly used:

  • Census data
  • Facebook profiles
  • Twitter profiles
  • LinkedIn profiles
  • Reddit profiles that match known usernames
  • Other social network profiles
  • Press mentions
  • Motor vehicle registrations
  • Driver license records
  • Voter registration lists
  • Political campaign contributions
  • Marriage licenses
  • Real estate transaction records
  • Birth certificates
  • Divorce decrees
  • Death certificates
  • Health care authority records
  • Criminal cases that haven't been Expealed
  • Most-wanted lists
  • Terrorist watch lists
  • No fly lists
  • Sex offender lists
  • Civil judgements that haven't been sealed
  • Purchase history databases
  • Marketing databases
  • Mailing lists
  • Surveys
  • Sweepstakes
  • Utility records
  • Government spending reports
  • Corporate entity/business registrations
  • Trademark filings
  • Professional and business license filings

With this many different sources of information and the ability of information brokers to quickly analyze that data, these companies can create very detailed profiles on you. The majority of these profiles contain the following:

  • Birthdate and age
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Marital status
  • Religious beliefs
  • Political leanings
  • Occupation
  • Household income
  • Total net work
  • Home ownership status
  • Investment habits
  • Product preferences
  • Health-related interests

These profiles are often even more in-depth and comprehensive than anything you've ever put together on social media. They can be used to make predictions about your behavior, your likes, your dislikes, and even the types of things you'd probably buy. Typical customers of these profiles include:

  • Advertisers and marketers
  • Political campaigns
  • Identity verification services
  • Fraud detection services
  • Banks and credit unions
  • Corporate background checks
  • Private investigators
  • Lawyers
  • Collection agencies

There are also government agencies that purchase these profiles from law enforcement agencies like the FBI, state and local authorities, the IRS, and others.

This is important, because as the US Senate found when they investigated data brokers in 2013, the specificity is astounding. Equifax has over 75,000 individual data elements that are as specific as what shampoo you bought in the last six month, whether you use laxatives or have a yeast infection, how many OB/GYN doctor visits you've had in the last 12 months, how many miles you've traveled in the last 4 weeks, and how many whiskey drinks you've had in the last 30 days.

The US Senate also found that removing your information from these databases can be difficult and time consuming. That's exactly why we created RecordSweeper and why we setup the GitHub repo -- so we can work with you to make the process as easy and accessible as possible.

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