Data brokerage firms currently own data on hundreds of millions of consumers with some of the top names in the industry boasting up to 1,500 data points per consumer. In addition to contact credentials such as a user's phone number and home address, the information they collect can also include details on a person's ethnicity, religion, marital status, hobbies, media usage, purchase and search history or even their political affiliation.
In order to help users regain control over who has their data, Surfshark created Incogni which upon a customer's request, can identify and communicate with dozens of data brokers so that their details can be deleted from these companies' databases.
Incogni users will also be able to follow the progress on how many companies were contacted, which ones have deleted their data and which are in the process of doing so.
Simplifying a difficult and time consuming process
As part of their research into the data brokerage industry, Surfshark's team contacted 36 data brokers on their own to show just how difficult and time consuming this process can be.
Getting a final response took a little over six days from when the team sent its first email to each new data broker and more than 20 days with each established one. However, as the 36 data brokers contacted by Surfshark make up only one percent of the existing market of 4,000 companies, it would take 66 years to finalize one person's data inquiry requests manually.
Additionally, 63 percent of the large data brokers the company contacted asked for additional personal data such as a bank statement or even an e-signature to complete the inquiry even though this wasn't necessary.
Surfshark CEO Vytautas Kaziukonis provided further insight on why the company decided to create Incogni in a press release, saying:
“Data privacy is becoming an increasingly alarming issue, yet many people are still unaware of the hidden market that data brokers operate in. As the sensitivity and scope of data they possess widens, so does the need to be able to opt-out of it. However, based on recent studies, the actual process of taking back data is an extremely tedious procedure, which requires legal knowledge and lots of persistence. Incogni aims to help users opt-out of these practices more efficiently and exercise their legal right to privacy easily.”