Websites give out your information, but why?

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Updated: Nov. 26, 2019 at 9:30 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) -Social media has become such a large part of life. We use it to share some of the most intimate parts of our lives. You would think we get to choose what information is available, but that is not exactly true.

There are many websites that share your information, without your permission, and make money from it.

Take Facebook as an example. We share pictures, written posts, our names, location, family, and friends. That is the very same information the websites have on you.

For the most part, what they give is basic, but sometimes it is not, and it is also not completely accurate.

“For example, they’ll give you a criminal record or reputational score,” Jennifer Brobst, associate professor of law at SIUC said. “It appears when you go in there and it appears almost, it could be with your name that there is criminality, and it ends up being that there’s a warrant out for neighbor down the street. They’re tying the criminal history of your entire neighborhood now.”

You might wonder how they get all that information.

"The government made a choice to put certain information that was already public record into online databases,” Brobst said.

Brobst says some websites then make money off that information. Some do not just use public records. Sometimes more personal details like your phone number can be sold. You might be asking how they get that. Brobst says one way is that we give it to companies who then can share it.

"Now they have this two-step authentication for passwords,” Brobst said. “It almost always requires you now to give some big company your phone number. So, I can’t think of a single piece of information that we regularly use that would probably be private from commercial access now. Brobst says there really is no universal protection to keep this from happening, and the federal government has really been at a standstill on the issue. "But, we’re now seeing, which is interesting, at least 20 state constitutions adding special privacy protection, more than the United States Constitution and it affects online privacy,” Brobst said. “So, our state governments are starting to step, including Illinois.”

Here is one example of how to ask a website to remove your information.

This example is for Intelius.

Intelius is just one of many websites, here is a non-exhaustive list of others:

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