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Analyzing The Shady World Of Data Brokerage Viz A Viz Right To Privacy

We belong to a generation where one does not have complete control over their personal privacy or it might be said that privacy no longer exists with the presence of internet. As the technology becomes more advanced , the concept of "privacy" is blurred and erased , being one of the foremost necessary element , it allows us to feel safe, feel comfortable and to be in control which ultimately makes it the consequential element of human dignity and freedom of expression. As we continue to become more technology depended, the line between public and private becomes very hard to pin point.

This article aims to discuss as to how our privacy is getting hindered because of some business whose entire business model is focused on collecting the personal data and then selling it for profit. Those businesses are called data brokers. But who are they, how do they collect data, what do they do with it and what is the process behind this whole data leak.

The article also discusses the personal data protection bill in light of right to privacy finally it offers some recommendations for improving the ethical standards of data brokerage including greater transparency and accountability , stronger data protection laws and the development of ethical guidelines for the use of new technologies. By the end of this article one will be extremely shocked to know that they themselves are sometimes the reason for their data leakage by selecting " accept'' to privacy and cookie policy.

What Are Data Brokers

Data brokers are the company that collect analyze and sell consumer data to other organizations, typically for marketing purposes. They operate in a largely unregulated industry, and there are concerns about the potential misuse of personal data and the lack of transparency in the data collection and sale process, the primary reason for the criticism of data brokerage industry is its opacity as data brokers have no real incentive to interact with people whose data they collect analyze, sell and make profit from.

How Do Data Brokers Collect Information

First up, to begin with, the most primary step is collection of data, data broker sites obtain information about you in several ways, both on and offline from various sources regarding an individual interest in different field of area, connecting all the dots together in such an appropriate way that it ultimately results in building a fully fledged comprehensive profile of a consumer.

The sources being web browsing history: every time while using search engine, a social media app, or other apps, filling out an online quiz or entering into a competition or might be visiting different website, we leave an electronic trail, data brokers use this trail to build up a picture of who you are, data brokers use web scrapping which is basically a small piece of software or script that extracts data from any website to gather some information.
  • Public sources: this includes birth certificates, marriage licenses, voter registration, court records, bankruptcy records, motor vehicle records and census data.
  • Commercial sources: one's purchases which they made, how much for and whether a coupon was used or not.
  • Consent: when an individual give consent while clicking on "accept" for cookie and privacy policy.

What Kind Of Information Does These Data Brokers Collect

Data brokers typically collect various types of data on individual:
  1. Demographic Information: this includes age, gender, income, education level, marital status and occupation.
  2. Financial Information: This includes information on an individual's credit history, income, debt and investment holdings.
  3. Geological Data: this includes information on an individual's physical location.
  4. Health Data: This includes information on an individual's health conditions, medical history, and prescription medications.
  5. Social data: this includes information regarding connections such as their friends, family members, and professional network.

The Shady World Of Data Brokerage In Light Of Right To Privacy

A fundamental human right that is acknowledged by many nations and international organizations is the right to privacy. It safeguards people against unauthorized access to their private information and lives but this right is being violated by many data brokers who acquire and sell personal information about people without their consent or knowledge.

Despite the fact that the data brokerage business model is profitable, it doesn't seem to be a business that many people would be interested in. some of the murkiest situation that occurred in the data broking sector is that a data broker sold data lists of rape suspects, alcoholics and "erectile dysfunctional sufferers in 2013 and the issue was so significant that it shed the light on the examination of massive enterprises like Acxiom and Experian.

There is one more example of data brokerage from India itself to give the readers the idea regarding how data brokers operate. In 2017, a research was conducted on a data broker company and the discovery was pretty unexpected. The company was selling personal information on up to 1 laky people in cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi for merely 10,000 and 15,000 rupees.

Although in India, various decisions concerning data broking and the right to privacy have been made. The Supreme Court historic decision in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) v. Union of India[1], which recognized the right to privacy as a basic right under the Indian constitution, is the most noteworthy of them. According to the judgment, privacy is a fundamental right that is necessary for the enjoyment of other rights, such as the right to life and personal liberty. The court also acknowledged the requirement for data protection legislation to control the gathering, storing and utilization of personal data.

Following the Puttaswamy judgment, the Indian government introduced the Personal Data Protection Bill, which sets rules for how personal data should be processed and stored, and lists people's right with respect to their personal information, . It also proposes to create an independent Indian regulatory authority called the data protection authority [DPA], to carry out this law. The main provisions of the bill signifies that is the bill comes into force then business would have to tell users about their data collection practices and seek customers consent.

They would have to collect and store evidence of the fact that such notice regarding the consent was given and subsequently the consent was received because the bill gives the consumer the right to withdraw their consent. also the bill gives consumer right to access, correct and erase their personal data and it is mandatory for all the business to create ways to allow consumers to do so the bill also requires companies to make organizational changes in order to protect the data in a better way in short, it aims to regulate the collection, storage and use of personal data by individuals and entities in India, including data brokers. The bill has not been passed yet, but it is expected to provide greater protections for individual's right to privacy by giving greater protection over personal data and has to be complied by both Indian as well as foreign companies who is dealing with the data of Indian citizen.

In addition to the Puttaswamy case, there have been several other judgments in India related to data brokerage and the right to privacy. For example, in the case of Google India pvt. Ltd. vs. Visaka Industries Limited[2], the Delhi High court held that Google's display of search results for certain keywords did not violate individual's right to privacy. However, the court also recognized that individual

that the individuals have a right to control the dissemination of their personal information and that Google should take measures to protect individual's privacy.

Overall, there is growing recognition in India for the importance of protecting individuals' right to privacy in the context of data brokerage, and the legal framework is evolving to provide greater protections for individuals' personal data.

Also the shady world of data brokerage highlights the need for greater transparency and accountability in the collection and use of personal data. It is important for individuals to be aware of their rights and for policymakers to take action to ensure that these rights are protected in the digital age.

Recomenmendations To Improve The Ethical Standards Of Data Brokerage

To improve the ethical standards of data brokerage, the following recommendations could be considered:

Greater transparency: Data brokers should be required to provide more transparency regarding their data collection and usage practices. This can be achieved by providing clear and concise policies, including information about types of data collected, the purposes of data collection and the types of third party organizations that have access to the data. Data brokers should also provide individuals with the ability to access correct and delete their personal information. As already mentioned in Data Protection Bill of 2022.

Accountability: data brokers should be held accountable for any misuse or mishandling of personal data. this can be achieved through the implementation of penalties for data breaches or unauthorized data sharing , and by providing individuals with the ability to file complaints and seek compensation for any harm caused by data breaches or unauthorized data sharing

Stronger Data Protection Laws: Governments should consider strengthening data protection laws to provide greater protection for invidual's personal information. This may include imposing stricter requirements on data brokers regarding the collection and use of personal data, such as mandatory data minimization and government should also consider providing individuals with greater control over their personal data, such as the right to opt out of data sharing and right to data portability.

Development of Ethical Guidelines: industry associations, civil society organizations and government should work together to develop ethical guidelines for the use of new technologies in data brokerage. These guidelines should aim to ensure that the use of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning do not result in discriminatory practices

.Education and Awareness: Education and awareness campaigns should be developed to inform individuals about the risk associated with data brokerage and the steps they can take to protect their personal information. This may include providing individuals with the information about their privacy rights. By implementing these recommendations, data brokerage can be conducted in a more ethical and responsible manner, ensuring that individuals privacy, security and consumer rights are protected.

Safeguards Measures That Can Be Taken By Individuals For Data Brokerage

  1. Be cautious about sharing personal information: It is important to be cautious about sharing personal information online, especially on social media platforms. Avoid sharing sensitive information such as social security number, bank account details, or credit card information.
  2. Use privacy settings: one make use of the privacy settings on social media accounts to limit who can see their personal information. One would only share personal information with trusted individuals and organizations
  3. Use strong passwords: making use of the strong passwords and avoiding usage of same passwords multiple times.
  4. Two factor authentication: Two factor authentications provides an additional layer of security and make it difficult for hackers to gain access to accounts.
  5. Keep software up to date: making sure that the system which is being used contains antivirus software which will ultimately help to ensure the protection against latest threats.
  6. Be aware of phasing scams: one should be aware of phishing scams , where attackers try to trick away personal information as a legitimate organization, one can avoid clicking on suspicious links or downloading attachments from unknown sender,
  7.  Use of VPN: using a virtual private network [VPN] while accessing the internet from public Wi-Fi network. This helps to protect data from hackers who may be trying to intercept it.
By following these safeguard measures, individuals can help protect their personal data from being brokered or misused by the third parties

In conclusion, the obscure industry of data brokerage poses a serious danger to people's right to privacy. Although data brokerage has become common practice in the digital economy, it operates in a largely unregulated and opaque environment, leaving people vulnerable to the misuse and abuse of their personal information. As a result, it is essential that government adopt a proactive strategy to regulate the actions of data brokers in order to guarantee that they respect people's right to privacy.

Individuals must also assume responsibility for protecting their personal information by understanding how it is gathered, shared, and used. We can only achieve a balance between the advantages of data broking and the right to privacy by cooperating, ensuring that the digital economy serves the interest of all parties involved.

  1. AIR2017 SC 4161
  2. (2020) 4 SCC 162

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