Bringing Data Broker Secrets Out of the Shadows

Are you an urban-dwelling dog-owner in your mid-thirties? A Spanish-speaking professional expecting your first child? An elderly female suffering from diabetes? No need to raise your hand. Consumer data companies already know these intimate details—and many, many more.

Beutler Ink partnered with a marketing technology client to produce an infographic detailing how the “data broker” industry operates. Data brokers encompass a class of marketing intermediaries that collect consumer data from both public and private sources, aggregate and analyze it, and then sell that information—or information derived from it—to other businesses and direct marketers.

Key data sources include store loyalty cards (which provide detailed records of consumer shopping patterns), government databases (including public voting records), and social media platforms. Although a site like Facebook does not provide user information directly to brokers, it is easy enough for any data collector to pull publicly posted screen names, user interests, and professional histories. Brokers are able to use data points from all of these sources to classify consumers into narrowly defined marketing categories that reflect income, demographic, and lifestyle criteria.

Our goal for the graphic was to highlight how data brokers’ shadowy practices contrast with inbound marketers’ more transparent approach to information gathering and sharing. Inbound marketing, for example, uses only opt-in consumer data and never buys or shares personal information.

The Declassified graphic was featured in Screenwerk.rising, and dataconomy.

Declassified Broker Secrets