Does Google sell its users’ personal data? September 7, 2008Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
According to the German magazine Stern it does. Stern bought several data packets that contained several hundred address lists for 1.50 euros plus value-added tax. For another 12 cents they bought the user’s telephone number. They called up the people on the lists (just as an advertiser who buys the information would) and told them everything they knew about them and where they had gotten the information. Needless to say people were pissed.
The fact that Germany has very strict laws regarding the protection of personal data (the Bundesdatenschutzgesetz) does not seem to matter – or apply. The problem is that names, addresses, birth dates, occupations and other criteria can be freely bought and sold as long as the customer does not expressly oppose it. How can they oppose it if they aren’t aware it is happening?
The Schober Information Group is an information broker near Stuttgart. It compiles information such as age group, gender, size of your household and income from the 50 million entries of private individuals. All you apparently need is an e-mail address and some cash to buy access to the information. Advertisers (really, anyone – even identity thieves) can use the Schober Information Group search engine to pinpoint specific target groups. Approximately 400 employees sort and organize the flood of data at Schober. The company earned 140 million euros in sales last year.
To quote the article (my translation):
Cookies can lead to real names
I don’t know about you, but it bothers me that information brokers like Schober and advertisers can buy my information from Google and Gmail. If this is happening in Germany you know full well it is also happening here in the U.S. And it isn’t just online sources. Every time you swipe your credit card, use one of your customer cards (such as a CVS card to get a good deal on nail polish or buy one vitamin get one free, just two examples from this week’s circular), fill out a sweepstakes form, or buy something online more and more information is being collected. There doesn’t appear to be anything anyone can do about it. Big Brother is watching you…