PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - A lot of it is public information, and a lot of it is information that we provide to websites as we bounce around on the Internet. There is also a lot of information we provide on social media, but there are what's known as "data brokers."
There are three major data brokers:
We've provided links to these three in the Watercooler section of our website. Their sites are designed to sell your information to marketers so when you go to their sites, they outline what they do and how they do it. They also outline in their privacy policies how they protect your data.
So like a credit report can you request your report?
You can, but it's not easy... And they are NOT required to give you a copy of it. If they agree though, they will first want to prove who you say you are. So you'll want to want to contact them and see what they require. Each will have a different set of rules as to how to acquire your information. They also protect details on how to protect your information.
So they take all public information about you, but what else do they collect?
It can be information you provide to websites as you surf, shop online or when you enter your email address for various sites to request information.
What about social media and search engines?
They collect data in a similar way as the data brokers, mostly because we give them so much information. In this case we give them information that is then used to give us better results.
Google for example has a a section designed to show you how your information is collected;
This is the Google dashboard. If you have a google account, this can show you all the information associated with your google activity:
Here you can edit what they collect and what information they save. Also if there is any wrong information you can remove it here too.
There is also the Google ads manager. This section is designed to help understand how they advertise to you. Again you can control this content.
There is also a very detailed and easy to understand section explaining how Google uses your data:
Now what about Facebook?
Now Facebook has been working very hard in the last few months to make the wording very clear on their site. They've strengthened their privacy tools and made it very easy to use and understand. The key thing here is to keep in mind, what do you make public?
Once you've made something public, and we're talking the public setting on Facebook, it's out there and anyone can see it. Even when you have your setting set to friends, you friends may not have their settings so tightened up. So as they are comment or share on your activity, that too can be public to their friends. Facebook also allows you to decide how advertisements are aimed at you and you can even download the information they have collected from you.