We’ve all come to realize that data is being collected about us and sold on a regular basis. Facebook is constantly under scrutiny for targeting practices, Apple announces how privacy-centric it is and then gets caught eavesdropping on your conversations, and the list goes on and on.
But data collection goes far beyond the tech giants. In fact, the most egregious offenders of privacy are not the tech giants, but companies operating behind the scenes that only exist to track you. At Loginhood, we thought we should be spending more time talking about these companies, so we put together a list of some of the largest companies that are constantly following you — and you’ve likely never heard of them.
A household name in the advertising technology world, Liveramp is a data collection powerhouse. Their entire business exists to track you across your various smart devices. The fun industry term for this is “identity resolution,” because “unescapable surveillance” is slightly harder to sell. Liveramp is quite effective at this, as their stock price has their valuation in the billions.
Just how much data tracking are they involved in? Their own website claims to have over 250 million Americans mapped on their “identity graph,” which is similar to a giant database linking you, specifically, to the different devices they have seen you use.
Another veteran company in the data collection world, Epsilon has been working hard at tracking you for over 50 years. Their latest tactics have ranged from aggregating your purchase data from different vendors willing to sell it and also dabbling in the ‘‘identity resolution” vertical that we dove into with Liveramp. Their website does a great job explaining that they do, in fact, track you, specifically across all of your devices.
Need another indication of how much your data is worth to these companies? Epsilon was acquired for $4.4 billion last year. So, a lot.
Criteo is the king of retargeting! Whenever you’re shopping and ads for a product you viewed start following you across the Internet, Criteo is often the company involved. This tactic is known as retargeting, which they so elegantly explain themselves (at least they acknowledge it’s creepy).
Criteo has been at the forefront of data tracking for years, from pioneering some of the early retargeting technology and now leading the charge in technology to track you without cookies. What does that mean exactly? Web browsers like Safari, Firefox, and Chrome are implementing policies to stop companies like Criteo from following you across the internet. But companies like Criteo are also playing a chess match to circumvent every new technology update.
With that information in mind, it’s probably not too surprising that Criteo is also the subject of a GDPR investigation for potentially illegal data collection practices.
Location data is becoming increasingly scary, as tech giants begin working with government officials to monitor your movements and interactions in the COVID era. While companies like Apple and Google are in the headlines recently because of this, PlaceIQ has been discreetly building a giant location-tracking business for years.
PlaceIQ is able to track your location by installing its software in apps and splitting the money they make with them. Most of these apps have no need for your location – they only exist to take your location data. PlaceIQ takes all of this data about where you have been and sells it to advertisers to target you based on your real-world movement, like the stores you’re visiting.
How scary can this get? PlaceIQ is now selling data about how you react to COVID – whether isolating, being cautious but social, or completely reemerged back into society and doing things like visiting entertainment venues. Your response to a pandemic is now up for sale.
Crossix buys your medical data and pharmaceutical prescription information from insurance companies and doctors to target you based on the conditions you suffer from. Full stop. Yes, you read that correctly. This company is purchasing medical records to target you with advertisements across the Internet. Does that seem too dismal to believe? Don’t worry, you can read about it right from their website.
They claim to track over 300 million Americans and work with over 200 pharma companies, so statistically speaking, they’ve probably acquired your medical information and used it to target you.
Pharmaceutical companies are willing to pay significant amounts of money to get patients to try their drugs and rely on Crossix to find the right people for each specific drug. So, if you feel like targeting people with heart-disease, now you know the company to reach out to.
These are just 5 amongst many companies that have been collecting and selling all sorts of consumer data without consumer consent or transparency. We hope to establish a sense of transparency and corporate responsibility by bringing attention to these companies’ data collection practices.