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Do they know you?

A stream of scandals have shown the scope of big tech's data exploitation. But what about the companies that feed advertisers and others with vast amounts of data about what you do, both online and offline? These types of companies have grown accustomed to operating comfortably in the shadows.

These are companies like Acxiom, Criteo, Equifax, Experian, Oracle, Quantcast, and Tapad. Have you heard of them? They've likely heard of you..

We think what these companies do with your data breaks the law and we've taken action against them. Take this quiz to find out if these companies know you.

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1/5 Do you pay by card?

☹ Unfortunately simply taking a flight, renting a car, or buying a phone can get your data into the hands of advertising companies you've never heard of.

Companies like Equifax and Experian are usually thought of as credit reference agencies. Most people knowingly interact with them to apply for a mortgage or loan, or to check their credit score. However, companies like these can also have marketing departments. This is the case with Experian, for example, which raises questions about how data is shared amongst different company departments.

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☹ When you purchase something, information about yourself and your transaction may be used to profile you and this can be shared with advertising partners.

Companies like Equifax and Experian are usually thought of as credit reference agencies. Most people knowingly interact with them to apply for a mortgage or loan, or to check their credit score. However, companies like these can also have marketing departments. This is the case with Experian, for example, which raises questions about how data is shared amongst different company departments.

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2/5 Do you click ‘Accept’ when a website asks to track you?

☹ Unfortunately it's hard, if not impossible, to escape the tentacles of ad-tech companies.

Most websites and apps use a slew of hidden third-party trackers to monitor what you read, watch, and do online. When you click ‘Accept’, you can allow trackers to monitor what you do online and share your activity.

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☹ It's hard, if not impossible, to escape the tentacles of ad-tech companies.

Most websites and apps use a slew of hidden third-party trackers to monitor what you read, watch, and do online. When you click ‘Accept’, you can allow trackers to monitor what you do online and share your activity.

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3/5 Do you give your email address to shops (online or offline), use loyalty cards, or sign up for online offers?

☹ Unfortunately advertisers are increasingly using mobile phone tracking technologies in shops to track shopping habits without people knowingly providing any information about themselves.

Loyalty cards provide these third-parties with more granular detail about your purchase habits. Some online clubs act as a gateway to provide data to data brokers and others, for example, the parenting website Emma's Diary was fined for breaching data protection law in the UK - it was sharing data with Experian who supplied the data to a political party.

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☹ Despite the law setting limits, fine print and pre-ticked boxes often mean that lists of customer email addresses can be shared by shops with third-parties who then can retarget ads online and offline to people who bought certain items.

Loyalty cards provide these third-parties with more granular detail about your purchase habits. Some online clubs act as a gateway to provide data to data brokers and others, for example, the parenting website Emma's Diary was fined for breaching data protection law in the UK - it was sharing data with Experian who supplied the data to a political party.

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4/5 Do you have a phone contract?

☹ Unfortunately even without a phone contract, the provider of your pay-as-you-go SIM card may collect data about you.

When you sign your phone contract, you agree to the provider's terms and conditions and privacy policy. For example, Vodafone’s privacy policy states that the company they share information about users with “Third parties that we advertise with, such as Facebook, in order to serve you advertisements online” and “Third parties that we use to serve you marketing, for example, MailChimp”.

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☹ Credit reference agencies and your phone provider's third-party partners likely know about you.

When you sign your phone contract, you agree to the provider's terms and conditions and privacy policy. For example, Vodafone’s privacy policy states that the company they share information about users with “Third parties that we advertise with, such as Facebook, in order to serve you advertisements online” and “Third parties that we use to serve you marketing, for example, MailChimp”.

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5/5 Do you vote?

☹ Unfortunately even if you do not exercise your right to vote, you should be outraged that this personal information is by default shared with companies of which most people have never heard.

It is common that electoral registries are shared with data companies. In the UK, people are able to request being put on an edited register, which does not share data with third-parties, but currently sharing happens by default.

☹ Good! However, watch out as by default, the information you provide the electoral roll may be provided to a variety of data brokers and credit referencing agencies, including Acxiom, Experian, and Equifax.

It is common that electoral registries are shared with data companies. In the UK, people are able to request being put on an edited register, which does not share data with third-parties, but currently sharing happens by default.