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Keep your data safe from the dark web

Did you know that it is more than likely your data, your personal information, is being sold to companies without your agreement or knowledge? In some cases, data is being sold on the dark web leading to phishing, scams, and financial loss. Now is the time to spring clean your digital footprint and take measures to stop this from happening.

By Rightly

Tue 19 Apr 2022

6 min read

Dark Data blog

It's alarming that so many consumers have let their digital footprint grow out of control, and even more worrying is the percentage who have simply just accepted they're a sitting duck and will eventually fall victim to a scam as a result.

Data is constantly being gathered without our knowledge and then sold to companies who go on to target us. In some cases, it ends up on the dark web resulting in financial scams and phishing.

The world of personal data is in disarray. GDPR was meant to help people remove worries about their data, but companies don't do the right thing with it. We’re worried about that, and we think you should be too.

Did you know, that someone can buy more information about you than your partner or parents probably know, for between five and ten pence? When scaled, all our data is being acquired and sold between organisations and it wouldn't be uncommon for over 2,500 companies to have your data.

If consumers truly knew the potential repercussions – everything from being scammed out of thousands of pounds to having their private and personal information shared online - of such a messy digital footprint, we’re sure there would be a greater cause for concern. By understanding who has your data and what information they hold, consumers can take back control and prevent their data from being exposed rather than scrambling to fix the mess once a breach inevitably happens.

Why is your data valuable?

We talk a great deal about spring cleaning and how important it is for your mental and physical wellbeing, and that should stretch to everything from your home to your finances to your data.

Businesses are required to tell you when they receive your data from another company, but no one does. The impact is that you don't know who has your data, nor do you know who to ask about what data they have on you, nor how to delete it. But all is not lost. You can get back control.

Almost everyone has a digital footprint, yet according to our research, eight in ten consumers don't know how big or far-reaching that digital footprint is.

It’s this footprint that increases the chances of personal data being spread widely, sold, or used by data brokers, in turn leaving consumers infinitely more susceptible to data breaches and being exposed to scams and spear-phishing.

Thousands of companies will have your data without you knowing it. Some will sell it while others will make money from it. Lots of them will lose it or get hacked, by which point it’s too late – your data is out there and on its way to the dark web.

It’s a fact that your detailed and highly personal information is being obtained by data brokers scraping your online activity and digital footprint to profile you and sell it to thousands of companies who have subsequently been bombarding you, no doubt with marketing information, porn and in some cases resulting in spear-phishing. Don't forget how valuable your data is.

We must all be more vigilant about what data we’re giving away if we are to avoid future digital harm and line the pockets of BIG TECH. It is never too late to stop these data brokers from selling your personal information. Even if you stop one data broker from doing this it can save your data from being sold.

Why should you care?

It's easy to be apathetic about your data. You may think “I can't control it”, so why care about it? But it's powerful, it's yours and you can do so much with it. Yet others are using it to their advantage but not always to your advantage.

The best way we can compare the risk is to how you protect other assets you own. For example, would you leave the doors to your home unlocked? Or would you write down the passcode for your debit card and leave it in easy reach? So why wouldn't you protect the data that powers every interaction that you have with every company and every service you use?

Last year there were six billion breaches of consumer data around the world and every minute a consumer in the UK loses over £4,000 to scammers. The two are linked. Your data powers scams, it's fuel to the scams fire. Your data is used for identity fraud scams, spear-phishing attacks, and hacks where your password is compromised.

How does your data end up on the dark web – are you being targeted?

Have you ever wondered why you see so many ads when you're online? In large part, it's because you're being targeted. Your data is being gathered without your knowledge and then sold to companies that go on to target you.

Your data can be sold multiple times by one company and from one company on to others, so you don’t know where it ends up or who has access to it. . It explains why ads that appear on your Facebook page relate to something else you explored on another website, or even if you happened to click on a web page.

These are companies that have your email address. That's bad enough, but even more concerning is that if 1000's companies have your email address, what other information do they have on you? Thus, it isn't surprising that data ends up on the dark web to be sold to fraudsters.

'Data Brokers', are selling your data, and profiting from something that’s yours. They sell it to brands to optimise marketing efforts and to target you. Rightly’s calculations show that these firms are making £300,000 a second from selling data like yours. They gather information on us all from as many sources as possible. They aim to help brands and organisations use any information they can find on you to target you.

They're also collecting biometric data, stuff that's even more personal. For example, propensity to get cancer. Rightly research has also shown women's health sites gather information on menstrual cycles so they can target marketing. With the 'Metaverse' unfolding the use of biometrics is likely to increase enormously.

So, what can you do to stop your data from being sold on and ending up on the dark web and potentially in the hands of scam merchants?

Data apathy is dangerous and costly. Taking an interest in where your data is being used however doesn't have to be labouring, intensive and difficult.

The best way to prevent your data from being sold by data brokers and ending up on the dark web is to use our new Rightly Protect service which is free and designed to help consumers to spring clean their inbox by identifying companies that have their data and then enabling the consumer to send a data erasure request to some or all with a single click.

Deleting data from companies that no longer need it aims to reduce the increasing number of UK consumers being targeted and falling victim to hacks, scams, unwanted marketing and spam each year.

Many people think that simply unsubscribing from emails is enough, but that doesn't delete your data, it's still held by companies. So, if they get hacked, your data can still be stolen. And if stolen, scammers typically have personal data for 224 days before the company even knows it's been breached! The only effective way to prevent scams is to take back control of your data, which our Rightly Protect service can do by making data deletion requests to a whole range of companies in one go. On a larger scale, there needs to be greater attention from governments to do more to protect our data privacy.

To avoid harm from the data we share, consumers must be more vigilant about what they are giving away to avoid future scams and fraud. It's never too late to find out who has your data and request its deletion to protect yourself. In addition, opting out of marketing communications or removing your details from as many databases as possible is a quick fix with a big impact.

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