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Data Aggregation 

What Is Data Aggregation? 

Data aggregation is the process of collecting, combining, and organizing data from multiple sources into a single dataset. 

Aggregation allows for a broader/more comprehensive view of data for reporting, analysis, or visualization purposes. Data aggregation can help identify trends, patterns, and insights that might not be apparent when looking at individual data points. 

Data aggregation is used across different industries, including market research, business analytics, and scientific research. 

Third-party definition 

Data aggregation involves gathering and merging information from different sources, formats, or categories to generate valuable insights, facilitate decision-making, or produce bigger, more inclusive datasets. – NordVPN

How Data Brokers Use Data Aggregation 

Data brokers often rely on data aggregation as a foundational process to acquire the datasets they sell. 

Also known as data aggregators, data brokers are companies that collect, aggregate, and analyze data from various sources to create individual profiles, which can include data like your full name, age, gender, race, marital status, occupation, net worth, political affiliations, and home ownership status.

This kind of information can come from other third parties and data brokers. For example, Oracle owns and works with more than 80 data brokers, aggregating data like consumer shopping and internet behavior in one place. 

Other brokers scrape publicly available data (such as public records and social media), aggregate it, and share/sell it. 

According to a report by the Federal Trade Commission, brokers sell consumer profiles to third parties for purposes such as verifying a person’s identity or for marketing products. 

Impact of Data Aggregation On Privacy 

Data aggregation involves collecting and consolidating personal data from multiple sources into one place. 

There are a few potential problems with this:

  • Lack of control over your information. Most people are not aware their personal information (like who they vote for, what sites they visit online, etc.) is being aggregated and sold to third parties for profit. In most cases, there is no way for individuals to know where their personal information ends up or how it is used. 
  • Targeted advertising. Data aggregation allows companies to create detailed consumer profiles that can be used for targeted advertising. 
  • Discrimination. Data brokers can analyze aggregated data to make inferences about people and put them into specific categories, for example, “car enthusiast,” “discount shopper,” and “interested in diabetes.” When these inferences are inaccurate, they can lead to biased decisions and missed opportunities, like denied jobs, loans, housing, or higher insurance premiums. 
  • Increased risk of breaches or accidental exposure. Aggregated data is an attractive target for cybercriminals. There have also been cases of data brokers accidentally exposing large datasets of sensitive data.
  • Exploitation of your data. Data brokers don’t always vet their customers, which can result in people’s personal data being sold to scammers, identity thieves, and abusive individuals. 

Although data aggregation can be beneficial, it can also be dangerous. If not managed appropriately, data aggregation can pose serious security and privacy risks to consumers.