Gegevens Mining: How Companies Know Your Private Information

Every detail of your life —, what you buy, where you go, whom you love —, is being extracted from the Internet, bundled and traded by data-mining companies. What’s te it for you?


Three hours after I talent my name and e-mail address to Michael Fertik, the CEO of, he called mij back and read my Social Security number to mij. “Wij had it a duo of hours ago,” he said. “I wasgoed just too busy to call.”

Te the past few months, I have bot told many more-interesting facts about myself than my Social Security number. I’ve gathered a bit of the vast amount of gegevens that’s being collected both online and off by companies ter stealth —, taken from the websites I look at, the stuff I buy, my Facebook photos, my warranty cards, my customer-reward cards, the songs I listen to online, surveys I wasgoed guilted into packing out and magazines I subscribe to. (See pictures of a Facebook server farm.)

Google’s Ads Preferences believes I’m a man interested te politics, Asian food, perfume, celebrity gossip, animated movies and crime but who doesn’t care about “books & literature” or “people & society.” (So not true.) Yahoo! has mij down spil a 36-to-45-year-old masculine who uses a Mac laptop and likes hockey, rap, rock, parenting, recipes, clothes and beauty products, it also thinks I live ter Fresh York, even tho’ I moved to Los Angeles more than six years ago. Alliance Gegevens, an enormous data-marketing hard te Texas, knows that I’m a 39-year-old college-educated Jewish masculine who takes ter at least $125,000 a year, makes most of his purchases online and spends an average of only $25 vanaf voorwerp. Specifically, it knows that on Jan. 24, 2004, I spent $46 on “low-ticket gifts and merchandise” and that on Oct. Ten, 2010, I spent $180 on intimate apparel. It knows about more than 100 purchases ter inbetween. Alliance also knows I owe $854,000 on a house built te 1939 that —, get this —, it thinks has stucco walls. They’re mostly wood siding with a little stucco on the bottom! Idiots.

EXelate, a Manhattan company that acts spil an exchange for the buying and selling of people’s gegevens, thinks I have a high televisiekanaal worth and dig green living and travel within the U.S. BlueKai, one of eXelate’s competitors te Bellevue, Wash., believes I’m a “collegiate-minded” senior executive with a high netwerken worth who rents sports cars (note to Time Inc. accounting: it’s wrong unless the Toyota Yaris is a sports car). At one point BlueKai also believed, very likely based on my $180 splurge for my wifey Cassandra on, that I wasgoed an 18-to-19-year-old woman.

RapLeaf, a data-mining company that wasgoed recently banned by Facebook because it mined people’s user IDs, has mij down spil a 35-to-44-year-old married masculine with a graduate degree living te L.A. But RapLeaf thinks I have no kids, work spil a medical professional and drive a truck. RapLeaf clearly does not read my katern ter TIME. (See 25 websites you can’t live without.)

Intellidyn, a company that buys and sells gegevens, searched its verkeersopstopping on mij, which says I’m a writer at Time Inc. and a “very assimilated” Jew. It knows that Cassandra and I like gardening, style, huis decorating and exercise, however te my case the word like means “am coerced to be involved ter.” Wij are pretty unlikely to buy car insurance by mail but enormously likely to go on a European sea cruise, despite the fact that wij are totally not going to go on a European sea cruise. There are tons of other companies I could have called to learn more about myself, but te a result no one could have predicted, I got bored.

Each of thesis lumps of information (and misinformation) about mij is sold for about two-fifths of a cent to advertisers, which then supply mij an Internet ad, send mij a catalog or mail mij a credit-card opoffering. This gegevens is collected ter lots of ways, such spil tracking devices (like cookies) on websites that permit a company to identify you spil you travel around the Web and apps you download on your cell that look at your voeling list and location. You know how everything has seemed free for the past few years? It wasn’t. It’s just that no one told you that instead of using money, you were paying with your private information.

Related movie: Genesis Mining Stopped Paying AGAIN!

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