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What Corporations Have Your Data and What Are They Doing With It?

7 minute read
Rich Hein avatar
Today’s consumers create massive amounts of data, and companies aren’t letting that information slip away. Learn exactly what they’re doing with it instead.

More data is being created today than at any point in history. According to Domo, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day, and 90% of all data was created in just the last two years.

What type of data do brands collect on you? Attributes like name, email, phone number, IP address or the type of mobile device you use are all pretty common. Less common ones may include what pets you have, your hobbies, height, weight and sexual orientation. Some companies also store your bank information, as well as links to your social media accounts and the data you share on them.

Things get even more personal if you use platforms like TikTok. They track your facial movements and collect images of your face and expressions, while other platforms collect and store your voice data.

Consumers today not only care about their privacy but want to know how their data is being used and have some control over it.

A recent study by Cisco found that 86% of consumers "care about data privacy" and want more control, while almost half of consumers "have switched companies or providers over their data policies or data sharing practices."

Depending on the type of data, its value can vary greatly both legally and on the black market. From basic personal identifying information (PII) going for about $.03 per record, to $250.15 for a healthcare record, data is big business. (Invisibly)

Data is more valuable than ever. Corporations want your data, and make big money from it. You should have a piece of this pie since it’s YOUR data.

How Do They Collect Your Data?

Corporations get data from you in all sorts of ways.

The first way is to ask for it from you. For example, if you download a whitepaper and give out your email, or fill out a survey for a free gift. Maybe you rated a product or service. Other sources of voluntary information include customer service calls and focus groups.

The second method corporations use to get data is to track you without you knowing it. For example, all websites track user activity. This can include data like time on site, time on page, page depth, page scroll, links clicked, login email and password. All that data is typically associated with an IP address, but that IP address can be connected to a real person.

The final method is corporations simply buy your data from someone else. When you do give a brand data for a variety of reasons like stated above, they most likely have it in the small print that they can sell your data to other companies.

Related Article: Should Marketers Use Web Scraping to Collect Data?

What Do They Do With Your Data?

One of the things companies do with the data they collect, track or purchase is create a unified customer profile, also called a single customer view.

These customer profiles, also called golden profiles, are the unified view of a customer that can serve as a single source of truth across an organization. Sometimes companies will enhance existing customer profiles with purchased data to fill them out and make them more comprehensive. This is a process known as data enrichment.

Being able to create accurate, unified profiles is what is needed for effective data-driven personalization across all channels for customers. Being able to tailor the customer experience across the whole buying journey with a 360-degree profile is the holy grail for marketers everywhere, and quality data is table stakes.

Personalization can be as simple as showing you more relevant content and offers or as complex as personalizing the whole customer experience — online and offline.

How Transparent Are Companies With Your Data?

Not all brands and companies are transparent with their data practices. This unfortunately has caused a lack of trust from consumers regarding brands and how they manage and use their data.

Consumers like and want personalized ads and experiences so long as they trust their data is being used for things they get value from.

Seventy-one percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, according to McKinsey. And seventy-six percent get frustrated when this doesn’t happen.

And if they do not get good personalization or a valuable interaction with your brand, they are not afraid to jump to another company. For instance, three-quarters of consumers switched to a new store, product or buying method during the pandemic.

Learning Opportunities

Giving consumers information and control over permissions for how their data is being used will go a long way toward rebuilding trust between consumer and company.

Related Article: Is It Possible to Have Both Privacy and Personalization?

How Is Your Data Protected?

Sadly, companies weren’t doing much to protect your data, so thankfully regulations from the European Union and states like California were implemented that include data privacy and security laws intended to protect end-users’ data.

The most well-known and expansive laws include the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which provides California consumers more control over the personal information that businesses collect about them. The law includes the right to know about the personal information a business collects about them and the right to opt out of the sale of their personal information.

A few other states like Colorado and Virginia have also implemented data privacy laws, but the California regulations are more comprehensive. Given the fact that there are limited federal data privacy laws in the USA outside of children, financial and healthcare, state legislation at this point is consumers’ only hope to protect their valuable personal information.

Internationally, data privacy was spearheaded by the European Union with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These regulations were put into place in 2018 and are some of the toughest and most expensive privacy laws in the world, with penalties reaching as much as €20 million or 4 percent of global revenue for non-compliance.

Who Collects Most of Your Data?

Based on the findings of a survey done by Clario, Facebook tops the list of consumer data collectors. They found that out of all the data a business can legally collect about you, Facebook collects 79.49%. Wow!

Next up on the list is Facebook-owned Instagram, which collects 69.23% of available data, including attributes like hobbies, height, weight and sexual orientation. TikTok is next, collecting 46.15% of your available data, including facial recognition, voice and images.

While social media is the most obvious of the data barons, all those apps you use for work and personal stuff are somewhat data-rich. Google Maps has 23.08% of available user data, while other Google apps like Docs and Gmail only collect about 12.82% of your available data.

Related Article: Inside Facebook's Strategy to Bring the Privacy War to Apple

Looking Forward

Data will continue to grow at astounding rates. By 2025, there will be 175 zettabytes of data in the global datasphere, according to data from IDC.

Your data is yours. It is a summary of who you are as a digital person. If companies are making money from it and selling it to other companies, you should know about it. You should also be able to give or rescind permission to companies that use your data if they break your trust. You as a consumer should get value in some way for sharing your data, whether in the form of contextual content suggestions, related products or a tailored customer experience.

Regulations like the GDPR ensure this for you as a consumer. While state regulations are beginning to address data privacy issues in the USA, a lack of overall data privacy and security federal regulations in the USA currently puts American consumers at risk.