In 2023, individuals around the world are offering businesses a lot more than their money. What often feels like a safe, innocuous transaction is the tip of an iceberg, which is why the subject of data privacy has been one of the most prevalent internet issues over the last two decades.

With the data broking industry estimated to be worth over $200 billion every year, numerous ecommerce sites have found an opportunity for profit not just through sales, but through actively selling the data that they harness from visiting customers.

This is why so many more people are going to an automated data removal service to claim back their digital footprint. The problem is progressing so far that users cannot rely solely on government frameworks, they have to do something about it themselves.

How Ecommerce Sites Collect Your Information

Now, you might be reading this thinking: I haven’t come across any website taking more information than I’d be happy sharing. And that’s because, as far as you’re concerned, there are no signs of your information being taken.

You might even then find some targeted ads related to your interaction a day or two later. This is because your data has been collected by the website in a mundane, workaday way which is almost invisible to an active user.

Did you click “allow” when the website asked you to allow cookies? Did you sign up for a special offer? Did you download the app to make the shopping experience easier next time round? Did you provide your email and number in exchange for a discount code?

If so, then you’ve entered into an agreement with the ecommerce site that involves your personal data – including your age, your gender, your interests, and sometimes even your address and phone number – being collected, analysed, and utilised by the company itself.

This is not only a problem on an ethical level, but the massive data brokering industry mentioned earlier has incited a number of ecommerce sites to then sell your personal data, simply because you interacted with them.

The Implications

Once again, you might be thinking: Well, I’ve got nothing to hide, and if companies are using my data to offer me products I like, then I’m okay with it. But the implications of data farming go way beyond targeted advertising. If your data is being collected and then sold, you have no control over who it is being sold to and why.

You also do not know the kind of security behind companies that are harnessing it. For instance, if your data is being held by a company with poor security features, then it has suddenly become at risk from cyber criminals who want to harness your data for their own benefits – including malware attacks, phishing emails, viruses, or even identity fraud. With businesses still trying to build an effective cybersecurity strategy in all departments, the potential for attacks is always there.

Just last year, as many as 442 million individuals worldwide were impacted by data compromises, and in nearly every case the steps that led to those breaches were outside of their control. The bottom line is that data farming is wrong on an ethical level. Everyone has the right to their own data, and data farming seeks to breach this right.

This is why, as mentioned previously, it is up to you as an individual to remain aware of what is going on, and do everything you can to opt out of data broking to take your identity back into your own hands.