[IMPORTANT] The 10 Largest US Data Brokers Selling Your Data

As we work, play and do business online, we constantly give away tidbits of our personal data in exchange for access to “free” services like search engines, email services, social networking platforms, news sites, games, streaming media and other apps and websites.

When combined with the vast amount of private information available through public records and other online sources, companies known as data brokers can create comprehensive files for millions of individuals and then sell access to the reports for huge profits.

Data brokers scour the internet to gather details based on our online shopping habits, browser activity, search history, and the information we share on social media and other sites.

The details their databases contain often include individuals’ full names, residential addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, employment history, marital status, income level, criminal record, and more. They then share and sell these reports with marketers, government agencies, and virtually anyone willing to pay a few dollars for a subscription to their services.

Concerned about how much information about you is freely available online? Get your data automatically removed from dozens of people search websites and data brokers for less than the cost of a Netflix subscription with Removaly.

Sources of Data Brokers’ Information

Data brokers collect information from a wide range of both physical and virtual sources. They rely on public records like arrest records, marriage licenses, property records, and other government files. Online, they use multiple methods to glean information about their targets, including:  

  • Cookies: We are often asked to allow cookies when we visit websites, but despite their innocuous-sounding name, cookies can track our activity both on individual websites and the internet as a whole.
  • Browser fingerprinting: Fingerprinting relies on invisible scripts that identify users based on details like browser, device type, time zone, language and more. In combination with cross-site tracking, fingerprinting makes it possible to track your activity, even if you’re using a browser in incognito or private mode.
  • Web beacons: These one-pixel images are remarkably effective at tracking your online behavior, recording which emails you read, which links you click and which products you look at. Using information collected by web beacons, marketers are able to target you with eerily effective ads that reflect your recent online activity.
  • IP address tracking: Your IP address identifies your device in the vast worldwide web, ensuring that the information you summon through emails, searches and other sources gets delivered to the right place. However, websites can also use your IP address to zero in on your geographic location and learn your online habits and preferences over time.
  • Customer data platforms: Most online shopping sites use customer data platforms (CDPs) to capture your interests and purchasing habits, allowing them to precisely craft advertisements, emails and other interactions to encourage you to buy more goods and services. For example, when you don’t complete a purchase and later receive an email or text asking if you’re still interested in the items in your shopping cart, it’s almost always the work of CDP software.

Sources of Data Brokers’ Profits

Data brokers aren’t picky about who they’ll sell your information to—generally, it’s any party willing to pay the desired fee. Most commonly, data brokers market their records to other data brokers, advertisers seeking insight into potential customers, and political campaigns working to reach their target voters.

Other consumers of data brokers’ products may have more nefarious intentions for the personal information they sell, including doxing, stalking, identity theft, and other forms of cybercrime.  

Discover the 10 Largest U.S. Data Brokers Selling Your Data

Some of the companies on the list below may be familiar names, while others tend to operate in the shadows, but all are earning massive revenues on the collection and sale of your personal information. Keep reading to find out who’s harvesting and profiting from your data—and how to make them stop.

Acxiom, LLC

This massive data broker is part of an even larger parent company, Interpublic Group, which owns dozens of marketing and communications firms in addition to Acxiom. Acxiom was founded under the name Demographics, Inc. in 1969 in Conway, Arkansas, and has since ballooned into a global data superpower.

Acxiom collects consumer data from a wide range of sources, including public records, customer surveys, magazine subscriber lists, and digital tracking tools. These reports contain as many as 1,500 data points on each individual, ranging from the personal (pet ownership and body weight) to the financial (credit score and net worth) and everything in between.

With 23,000 servers working 24/7 to capture data from more than 50 trillion information exchanges each year, the company has compiled profiles for 700 million individuals, including virtually every household in the U.S. and residents of dozens of countries worldwide.

Once Acxiom creates its consumer profiles, it sells them primarily to other companies in a variety of industries, including insurance and investment services, automotive and retail, travel and entertainment, healthcare, nonprofit, and government agencies. Though the data is anonymized before it is sold, the company will allow individuals to opt out of some—though not all—of its collection activities.

Epsilon Data Management, LLC

First incorporated in 1970, Epsilon provides strategic consulting, marketing analytics, database, email and loyalty marketing technology, predictive modeling, proprietary data, and digital marketing services. The Texas-based company was acquired by global marketing and communications firm Publicis Groupe in 2019 in a transaction totaling roughly $4 billion.

Epsilon positions itself as a source of accurate, highly specific consumer data that can enable companies to personalize their messages to effectively target potential customers. It touts its first-party data collection practices as superior to third-party cookies and device ID tracking.

The company’s databases focus on information related to users’ demographics and interests, past household purchases, and self-reported information, which it then sells to catalog and retail companies, nonprofit organizations, and publishers, as well as clients in a handful of other industries.

Individuals can contact Epsilon directly and request not to receive marketing mailings based on the company’s databases, but their information will simply be marked “Do Not Share” and not deleted completely.

Datalogix

Founded in 2002 and now owned by software industry giant Oracle, Denver-based firm Datalogix provides online, direct mail, and mobile services to its clients. The company collects most of its data through retailers’ loyalty programs, allowing it to capture insights related to individual consumer preferences and behavior.

In addition to its retail clients, other Datalogix customers include PepsiCo, Ford, the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, and several large travel agencies, and it also works closely with other major data brokers like Acxiom and Experian.

Once collected, this consumer data is resold to advertising companies and publishing platforms—including Facebook and Google—for the development of precisely-tailored advertising based on consumers’ past purchasing activity. Demand for the company’s services has continued to grow as digital media now dominates the market.

Datalogix claims that it anonymizes individual data and groups consumers with similar interests, demographics, and behavior patterns before selling its data; it also provides an opt-out option on its website for those who do not wish to have their information captured and shared.

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion

Widely recognized as the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion store consumers’ credit history and assign scores designed to reflect their creditworthiness. These scores are used by lenders and financial institutions as they decide whether to extend credit to someone and what interest rate to charge. This trio of data brokers gets its data from banks, credit card companies, debt collectors, and other sources.

Though allowing these agencies to collect your information is a necessity of modern life—at least if you plan to take out a mortgage, auto loan, or other lines of credit—it’s not without risk. All three firms have experienced massive data breaches in recent years:

  • Equifax in 2017, when 143 million Americans had their credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, birth dates, home addresses and other personal information exposed to cybercriminals;
  • Experian in 2020, when the data of 24 million South Africans and nearly a million businesses was leaked;
  • TransUnion in 2019, when 37,000 Canadians learned their personal information was inappropriately accessed.

CoreLogic

Based in Irvine, California, CoreLogic is focused primarily on the real estate industry, providing data, analytics, and platforms to real estate professionals, financial institutions, insurance companies, government agencies, and other players in the lucrative housing market.

CoreLogic boasts the nation’s largest property and ownership database as well as a vast network of field researchers, analysts, and data scientists. It draws its data from more than 5.5 billion property records; more than a billion visual records such as aerial photos, virtual home tours, and interactive floor plans; and several hundred analytical models that allow it to extrapolate raw data into insights for consumers of its information.

CoreLogic clients primarily use the company’s data to screen potential tenants for real estate companies and landlords, and critics claim that its heavy reliance on artificial intelligence and automated algorithms can result in discrimination against certain categories of people, including minorities and those with disabilities.

Nielsen

Founded in 1923, Nielsen Holdings Inc. is a New York-based information, data, and market measurement firm that operates in more than 100 countries. Though most people associate Nielsen with television ratings, that segment of the company comprises just a quarter of its total operations, which also tracks metrics for fast-moving goods and other media.

Generating roughly 45 percent of its total revenues, Nielsen’s “Buy” component analyzes consumer behavior across categories, brands, and products. Consumers of its data include packaged goods companies such as Nestle S.A., Procter & Gamble, and the Coca-Cola Company; large retailers like Walmart; and Wall Street analysts.

Nielsen itself is a huge purchaser of retail data, combining information from store sales with household demographic information to help its clients tailor advertising messages and optimize product mixes to give customers the products they desire.

Nielsen’s Watch segment analyzes media consumption across traditional and emerging platforms, from TV and radio to streaming services and mobile apps. These reports are sold to advertisers and networks such as CBS, NBC Universal and The Walt Disney Company for use in shaping programming and advertising content.

PeekYou

Among data brokers, PeekYou falls into the subcategory of “people search sites” that allow individuals to comb its databases for information on estranged relatives, former classmates, current coworkers or even perfect strangers.

PeekYou uses the tactic of information scraping to cull data points from publicly available records and online sources, including social media profiles, government files, internet forums and employment sites, to compile comprehensive records for more than 250 million individuals, most of whom live in the U.S. and Canada.

These reports typically contain full names and aliases, known family members and acquaintances, phone numbers and email addresses, past and current addresses, criminal records, employment histories and more. To access this treasure trove of private data, PeekYou simply requires users to pay a nominal monthly subscription fee, which grants them unlimited name searches.

Though PeekYou warns that the information in its database should not be used illegally to screen tenants, determine creditworthiness or stalk anyone, it has no real control over how its information is used once it is disclosed. Users can complete an opt-out form on PeekYou’s website to remove their records from its database, but the information will almost certainly still be accessible through its original sources.

Verisk

This New Jersey company bills itself as a provider of services to help its customers manage risk, as evidenced by the roots of its name (“veritas,” the Latin word for truth, combined with the word “risk”).

The company’s 9,000 employees include actuaries, chemists, commercial bankers, data scientists, engineers, insurance analysts, natural resources specialists, physicists, predictive modeling experts and supply chain analysts, all of whom work to compile data and analytics for clients in the insurance, energy, financial, supply chain, environmental health and safety, real estate and transportation industries.

Over the last two decades, Verisk has acquired roughly 40 companies providing expertise in areas such as catastrophe modeling, building repair and construction estimating, loss prevention in retail, entertainment and food sectors and medical records aggregation and analysis.

Preventing the Largest Data Brokers from Collecting Your Information

Concerned about how much information about you is freely available online? Get your data automatically removed from dozens of people search websites and data brokers for less than the cost of a Netflix subscription with Removaly.

Though this list represents the 10 largest data brokers in the U.S., they make up just a handful of the dozens of companies that exist almost exclusively to collect, package, share and sell personal data. While most data brokers allow individuals to opt out of at least some of their collection activities, completing the process for each company can be frustrating and time-consuming.

It can also be difficult to identify every single entity capturing your data, which is why enlisting the help of a comprehensive service like Removaly may be the most effective use of your resources to secure your personal information.

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