Buy Buy Privacy

Planning to do some online holiday shopping? LSA Ph.D. student Darren Stevenson explains how advertisers get and use your personal data to predict what you’ll buy—and, sometimes, even what you’ll pay.

You finally dug out the snow pants and scarves, paired the stray gloves and mittens, and found your son’s snow boots that are at least two sizes too small. The next time you’re at your computer, you type “boys winter boots” into a search engine and scan through dozens of websites that probably sell exactly what you’re looking for.

But you may not realize that that click also sends slivers of data about you to countless data brokers who add it to the dossier of your digital self. Data brokers constantly expand and refine your data so advertisers can target you better, and it will probably pay off: The personal information market is booming.

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