The fast-growing industry of data brokers and our cheap personal data

There’s a fast-growing industry in India that’s called ‘data brokers’.

These companies offer on online listings their services of selling personal data of Indian residents, i.e. residential address, phone number, email id, details of what you bought online, email ids, age, marital status, age, income, profession and much more. is all up for sale, very cheaply – for less than a rupee per person – to anyone who asks

The price of this personal data is very cheap, less than a rupee per person.

They claim to be able to provide lists of high net worth individuals, salaried people, credit card holders, car owners, retired women in any given vicinity. They can even send free samples, in the form of excel sheets with personal data of people, split by address and income profiles, from which Economic Times, the source of this report, called a dozen people to verify their details.

Obviously, most of these people lose money through credit card frauds, as a consequence of being hacked during purchases on eBay and Amazon. Both companies reply taking data security and privacy of buyers and sellers on its platform very seriously and being totally unaware of any data leak or sale.

Data brokers explain that most of the data is sold to them by mobile service providers, agents from hospitals and banks, loan agents, car dealers. When they are signing up for free discounts, filling out questionnaires, or during their click stream in general, people are giving up all the data voluntarily and agreeing to privacy policies that allow them to do so. Also, data from social media sites – much of it unstructured data, such as tweets – is collected for analytics that can help deepen the understanding of consumers.

Actually, data broking isn’t illegal but it does work in a grey zone, since India’s IT Act does not specifically address the issue of data brokerage and privacy and it is an approximately $200 billion industry.

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