Big Data

What Exactly Those Data Brokers Know About You

Jeff Chiu/AP

You probably assume Google and Facebook know everything about you. You may not have heard of a group of companies who possibly know even more. They’re called data brokers, and their business is collecting and selling personal data—typically without your knowledge or consent—that are used to verify identity, help marketers, detect fraud and help perform detailed “people searches.”

Most people have little idea that these companies exist. A new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report out today attempts to shed more light on them. The report describes an industry that collects data from many sources without consumers knowing; that is multi-layered and intertwined; and that stores billions of data points covering nearly every US consumer.

The report looked at nine major data brokers: Acxiom, Corelogic, Datalogix, eBureau, ID Analytics, Intelius, PeekYou, Rapleaf, and Recorded Future.

The report includes a “representative list” (pdf, p. 97-100) of the kinds of data the companies collect. Some are what you’d expect—name, address, social security number, and the bluntly termed “ability to afford products.” But then there are segments like “thrifty elders,” new age/organic lifestyle adherents, bikers/Hell’s Angels, members of more than five online shopping sites, people with fireplaces, people who do a lot of medical googling (an “ailment and prescription online search propensity”), those who have credit with “a low-end standalone department store” (read: WalMart), and perhaps most bizarrely of all, purchasers of “Novelty Elvis” products.

Here’s the full list.

Identifying Data

• Name
• Previously Used Names
• Address
• Address History
• Longitude and Latitude
• Phone Numbers
• Email Address

Sensitive Identifying Data

• Social Security Number
• Driver’s License Number
• Birth Date
• Birth Dates of Each Child in Household
• Birth Date of Family Members in Household

Demographic Data

• Age
• Height
• Weight
• Gender
• Race & Ethnicity
• Country of Origin
• Religion (by Surname at the Household Level)
• Language
• Marital Status
• Presence of Elderly Parent
• Presence of Children in Household
• Education Level
• Occupation
• Family Ties
• Demographic Characteristics of Family Members in Household
• Number of Surnames in Household
• Veteran in Household
• Grandparent in House
• Spanish Speaker
• Foreign Language Household (e.g., Russian, Hindi, Tagalog, Cantonese)
• Households with a Householder who is Hispanic Origin or Latino
• Employed – White Collar Occupation
• Employed – Blue Collar Occupation
• Work at Home Flag
• Length of Residence
• Household Size
• Congressional District
• Single Parent with Children
• Ethnic and Religious Affiliations

Court and Public Record Data

• Bankruptcies
• Criminal Offenses and Convictions
• Judgments
• Liens
• Marriage Licenses
• State Licenses and Registrations (e.g.,Hunting, Fishing, Professional)
• Voting Registration and Party Identification

Social Media and Technology Data

• Electronics Purchases
• Friend Connections
• Internet Connection Type
• Internet Provider
• Level of Usage
• Heavy Facebook User
• Heavy Twitter User
• Twitter User with 250+ Friends
• Is a Member of over 5 Social Networks
• Online Influence
• Operating System
• Software Purchases
• Type of Media Posted
• Uploaded Pictures
• Use of Long Distance Calling Services
• Presence of Computer Owner
• Use of Mobile Devices
• Social Media and Internet Accounts including: Digg, Facebook, Flickr, Flixster, Friendster, hi5, Hotmail, LinkedIn, Live Journal, MySpace, Twitter, Amazon, Bebo, CafeMom, DailyMotion, Match, myYearbook, NBA.com, Pandora, Photobucket, WordPress, and Yahoo

Home and Neighborhood Data

• Census Tract Data
• Address Coded as Public/Government Housing
• Dwelling Type
• Heating and Cooling
• Home Equity
• Home Loan Amount and Interest Rate
• Home Size
• Lender Type
• Length of Residence
• Listing Price
• Market Value
• Move Date
• Neighborhood Criminal, Demographic, and Business Data
• Number of Baths
• Number of Rooms
• Number of Units
• Presence of Fireplace
• Presence of Garage
• Presence of Home Pool
• Rent Price
• Type of Owner
• Type of Roof
• Year Built

General Interest Data

• Apparel Preferences
• Attendance at Sporting Events
• Charitable Giving
• Gambling – Casinos
• Gambling – State Lotteries
• Thrifty Elders
• Life Events (e.g., Retirement, Newlywed,Expectant Parent)
• Magazine and Catalog Subscriptions
• Media Channels Used
• Participation in Outdoor Activities (e.g., Golf, Motorcycling, Skiing, Camping)
• Participation in Sweepstakes or Contests
• Pets
• Dog Owner
• Political Leanings
• Assimilation Code
• Preferred Celebrities
• Preferred Movie Genres
• Preferred Music Genres
• Reading and Listening Preferences
• Donor (e.g., Religious, Political, Health Causes)
• Financial Newsletter Subscriber
• Upscale Retail Card Holder
• Affluent Baby Boomer
• Working-Class Moms
• Working Woman
• African-American Professional
• Membership Clubs – Self-Help
• Membership Clubs – Wines
• Exercise – Sporty Living
• Winter Activity Enthusiast
• Participant – Motorcycling
• Outdoor/Hunting & Shooting
• Biker/Hell’s Angels
• Santa Fe/Native American Lifestyle
• New Age/Organic Lifestyle
• Is a Member of over 5 Shopping Sites
• Media Channel Usage – Daytime TV
• Bible Lifestyle
• Leans Left
• Political Conservative
• Political Liberal
• Activism & Social Issues

Financial Data

• Ability to Afford Products
• Credit Card User
• Presence of Gold or Platinum Card
• Credit Worthiness
• Recent Mortgage Borrower
• Pennywise Mortgagee
• Financially Challenged
• Owns Stocks or Bonds
• Investment Interests
• Discretionary Income Level
• Credit Active
• Credit Relationship with Financial or Loan Company
• Credit Relationship with Low-End Standalone Department Store
• Number of Investment Properties Owned
• Estimated Income
• Life Insurance
• Loans
• Net Worth Indicator
• Underbanked Indicator
• Tax Return Transcripts
• Type of Credit Cards

Vehicle Data

• Brand Preferences
• Insurance Renewal
• Make & Model
• Vehicles Owned
• Vehicle Identification Numbers
• Vehicle Value Index
• Propensity to Purchase a New or Used Vehicle
• Propensity to Purchase a Particular Vehicle Type (e.g., SUV, Coupe, Sedan)
• Motor Cycle Owner (e.g., Harley, Off-Road Trail Bike)
• Motor Cycle Purchased 0-6 Months Ago
• Boat Owner
• Purchase Date
• Purchase Information
• Intend to Purchase – Vehicle

Travel Data

• Read Books or Magazines About Travel
• Travel Purchase – Highest Price Paid
• Date of Last Travel Purchase
• Air Services – Frequent Flyer
• Vacation Property
• Vacation Type (e.g., Casino, Time Share, Cruises, RV)
• Cruises Booked
• Preferred Vacation Destination
• Preferred Airline

Purchase Behavior Data

• Amount Spent on Goods
• Buying Activity
• Method of Payment
• Number of Orders
• Buying Channel Preference (e.g., Internet, Mail, Phone)
• Types of Purchases
• Military Memorabilia/Weaponry
• Shooting Games
• Guns and Ammunition
• Christian Religious Products
• Jewish Holidays/Judaica Gifts
• Kwanzaa/African-Americana Gifts
• Type of Entertainment Purchased
• Type of Food Purchased
• Average Days Between Orders
• Last Online Order Date
• Last Offline Order Date
• Online Orders $500-$999.99 Range
• Offline Orders $1000+ Range
• Number of Orders – Low-Scale Catalogs
• Number of Orders – High-Scale Catalogs
• Retail Purchases – Most Frequent Category
• Mail Order Responder – Insurance
• Mailability Score
• Dollars – Apparel – Women’s Plus Sizes
• Dollars – Apparel – Men’s Big & Tall
• Books – Mind & Body/Self-Help
• Internet Shopper
• Novelty Elvis

Health Data

• Ailment and Prescription Online Search Propensity
• Propensity to Order Prescriptions by Mail
• Smoker in Household
• Tobacco Usage
• Over the Counter Drug Purchases
• Geriatric Supplies
• Use of Corrective Lenses or Contacts
• Allergy Sufferer
• Have Individual Health Insurance Plan
• Buy Disability Insurance
• Buy Supplemental to Medicare/Medicaid
Individual Insurance
• Brand Name Medicine Preference
• Magazines – Health
• Weight Loss & Supplements
• Purchase History or Reported Interest in Health Topics including: Allergies, Arthritis, Medicine Preferences, Cholesterol, Diabetes, Dieting, Body Shaping, Alternative Medicine, Beauty/Physical Enhancement, Disabilities, Homeopathic Remedies, Organic Focus, Orthopedics, and Senior Needs

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