Personal data is a proverbial gold mine for companies and advertisers. Although data brokers have not been around for very long, they already make billions. But what are your e-mail address, health data & Co actually worth?

“I have nothing to hide.” Or: “Who cares about my personal data anyway?” Statements like these are still common in data protection discussions – and they reveal the dilemma we face.

On the one hand, it is very important to create an awareness in society of the value of personal data. On the other hand, data is not tangible for the normal user. Therefore, few people understand that personal data is the most valuable asset for companies.

What do data brokers actually do?

Whether it’s online shopping at Amazon, Otto and Co. or your surfing behavior on the Internet as a whole, your data and activities are constantly being recorded, analyzed and clustered.

Behind these clusters are so-called data brokers. They collect and exploit the data and sell it to the advertising industry. There are currently around 4,000 data brokers around the world. According to the marketing agency Webfx, the estimated market volume is 200 billion US dollars.

Important data brokers and what data they hold

Acxiom, for example, is one of the largest data and analysis companies in the world. The US-American company operates over 23,000 servers on which personal data is collected and analyzed.

In total, the Acxiom database contains information on more than 500 million people. There are over 3,000 individual data points for each of them.

Two other data vendors with large databases are for example Towerdata and Equifax. Towerdata claims to own over 80 percent of all e-mail addresses of American citizens. Equifax accounts for 39 percent of all American payrolls.

E-mail addresses, health data and more: What do they cost?

Another exciting question, of course, is: How much do advertisers and marketers have to pay for the personal data of private individuals?

For example, a list with the health data and pre-existing conditions (anorexia, depression, etc.) of 1,000 people costs just USD 79.

An average email address, on the other hand, is worth $89. There are differences depending on the industry. In the travel sector, for example, an e-mail address costs $251, while in the shopping sector it is only $84.

How do you protect personal data on the Internet?

The simplest and most effective method is simply to enter and distribute as little data as possible on the Internet. You should also disable tracking as much as possible on social networks like Facebook, search engines like Google, and browsers.

All these measures do not guarantee that Data Brokers can access your data. But at least you minimize the input – and that’s the first step.