Your Online Activity and Location Is Being Exposed 747 Times a Day | by PCMag | PC Magazine | May, 2022

That’s on average for a person in the US, and your data is shared with thousands of companies.

By Matthew Humphries

A new report reveals your online activity and location is being tracked and shared with thousands of companies hundreds of times every day.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) just released its “The Biggest Data Breach” report, which is focused on the scale of Real-Time Bidding (RTB) data broadcasts for internet users in the US and across Europe. RTB is the way in which digital advertising is bought and sold on a per-impression basis, and it’s a $117 billion industry.

A side effect of the way in which RTB works is that it requires collecting lots of personal data about users, including their location. The ICCL says a person in the US is, on average, having their online activity and location exposed 747 times every single day through RTB data broadcasts. The data collected is accessible by 4,698 companies in the US, but the report also states this data goes to companies across Europe, China, and Russia.

The number of daily data exposures depends on where you live. (ICCL)

The ICCL estimates that US internet users have their data shared a total of 107 trillion times a year. Where you live in the US also matters. 747 times a day is only the average, with Colorado residents being the most exposed at 987 times a day. On the other end of the scale, people in the District of Columbia only have their data exposed 486 times a day.

So who is broadcasting this data? There’s a core group of RTB companies, which includes Google and Microsoft (Xandr), but also names you probably aren’t familiar with such as PubMatic, Magnite, BidSwitch, Index Exchange, OpenX, and TripleLift. The ICCL also has an “Others” category which accounts for 28% of all RTB broadcasts in the US.

The ICCL views RTB broadcasting as a data breach and has litigation ongoing in three European courts. However, litigation, new laws, and enforcement all take a very long time, and therefore this personal data collection and sharing will continue to happen for months, and probably years to come.

The best thing you can do right now is take matters into your own hands and start using the internet with privacy in mind. There are simple things you can do to be more secure online, and apps available to ensure online privacy. Your choice of web browser can also have a major impact on the security of your data. The worst thing you can do? Nothing at all.

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