The Opt-Out Machine
Sign Up

The Data Collected About You

by John Ruder

Nov 19, 2021

What Data is Collected About Me?

Well, a staggering amount of data, really.

There are so many types of data about you that it can get a little surprising and intimidating at first.

The good news is that Known Privacy is here to make it easy, make it understandable, and to shine some sunlight on what has been a dark and secret realm.

There are many different categories of data about you. In fact, a typical profile about us that companies keep has well over 10,000 data points. That's a lot of data.

There are entire fields of study and professions dedicated to the topic of just how to manage and organize huge amounts of complex data: Information Science, Data Science, Information Engineering and other disciplines have experts who dedicate their careers to figuring this stuff out.

To keep it simple, we are going to borrow the data categories from the FTC Report, published in 2014: "Data Brokers, A Call for Transparency and Accountability". They laid out a taxonomy for data based on its review of 9 data brokers and their data sets.

By the way, we summarize some of the other things from that report in a different post, 'How your data is collected, according to the FTC', if you want to check it out.

The summary categories of data about you

One thing to note is that this list reflects what Data Brokers and other Surveillance companies aspire to. The biggest and most successful of them have a lot of this data. Often different companies have different pockets of this data.

The data varies in quality and completeness from company to company. When a company needs some data they don't have, they simply buy it from another company that does have it.

Identifying Data

The things that help databases identify you specifically: every email address, every phone number, where you live, your social handles, etc.

Sensitive Identifying Data

Similar to identifying data, but more likely to be used to fake your identity. Social security numbers, driver's license numbers, birthdays and the like.

Demographic Data

Your background- who you are, where you come from, your age, ethnicity, religion, education, what you do for a living, marital status, information about your family, etc.

Court and Public Data

This is more of a 'where we got the data' category, since these are important data sources for data brokers, but it includes convictions, law suits, sporting licenses, professional licenses and voting registrations.

Social Media and Technology Data

This category has evolved quite a bit, but reflects all of the data you put into the public domain using social media and your technology profile: your 'social graph' / all of your friends and connections, how active you are on social media, how many followers you have, your level of influence, pictures you've posted, and anything else you've posted.

​Home and Neighborhood Data

Everywhere you've ever lived and the timeline of when you lived there, the characteristics of those dwellings, how much you paid in rent or what your mortgages were.

Travel Data

All the places you've ever travelled, how much you spent, your travel research and subscriptions, airlines you fly with, hotels you stay with, cars you've rented, boats you've rented, and what you do while traveling.

General Interest Data

This is really about what you like and what you spend your time doing. Your political affiliations and level activism, your religious affiliations and level of participation, where you shop, how much you shop, the sports you like to watch or play, the charities you give to, your gun ownership status, gambling patterns, online games you play, clubs you belong to, concerts you go to, the music you listen to, life events and when they happened.

​Financial Data

How much you are worth, how much money you make, what kind of credit you have, how many credit cards and how much you use them, what you can afford, your debts, your life insurance, your crypto, or anything else in the financial realm.

​Vehicle Data

What kind of vehicles you like and have: cars, motorcycles, boats, planes or anything else related.

Purchase Behavior Data

A much more detailed look at your shopping patterns and behaviors and transaction histories. What you buy, where you buy, when you buy, how much you pay, whether online or offline.

Health Data

The diseases you have, the medicines you buy, the insurance you have, the doctors you see, the hospitals you use, how much you drink, how much you smoke, and whether you use the emergency room.

Other Categories missed by this report or that have more recently emerged that we'd add

Online Behaviors

Web browsing history, search history, which apps you have, which technology platforms you use, app usage, screen time, subscriptions, number of devices own, cross-device tracking, IP address, etc.

Smart Home / Smart Devices

Smart speaker voice history, smart appliance usage, energy usage, and other home network information

Location Data

Real-time location, location history and associated analytics: most frequented places, length of stay, companions with similar location patterns, and other analysis of activity in they physical world. Tracking of your phone, your car, and the people you travel with.


Facial recognition and the data describing what you look like, how you sound / your voice print, you finger print, how you walk / your gait, your finger prints, your optical print / what your eyeball looks like, and other physical traits that describe you uniquely.

Genomic and DNA data

The complete sequence of your genome, the characterization and analytics that your genes describe: ethnicity traits, genes that indicate propensity for various diseases, genes that indicate propensity for other traits, likely family relationships, etc.

Details of the individual data elements contained under each category

Despite the length of this list it is fairly incomplete and reflects a single research effort conducted by the FTC in 2014. They only surveyed nine data brokers. There are hundreds of data brokers. We still think it is valuable to review even this basic list to begin to get a sense of the scope & scale of data collection that happens every day.

There are 267 items in this list and we think it is a fraction of the level of detail that companies are amassing.

It is fairly common to have tens of thousands of individual pieces of information on a single individual.

Identifying Data

  • Name
  • Previously Used Names
  • Address
  • Address History
  • Longitude and Latitude
  • Phone Numbers
  • Email Address

Sensitive Identifying Data

  • Social Security Number
  • Driver’s License Number
  • Birth Date
  • Birth Dates of Each Child in Household
  • Birth Date of Family Members in
  • Household

Demographic Data

  • Age
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Gender
  • Race & Ethnicity
  • Country of Origin
  • Religion (by Surname at the Household
  • Level)
  • Language
  • Marital Status
  • Presence of Elderly Parent
  • Presence of Children in Household
  • Education Level
  • Occupation
  • Family Ties
  • Demographic Characteristics of Family Members in Household
  • Number of Surnames in Household
  • Veteran in Household
  • Grandparent in House
  • Spanish Speaker
  • Foreign Language Household (e.g., Russian, Hindi, Tagalog, Cantonese)
  • Households with a Householder who is Hispanic Origin or Latino
  • Employed - White Collar Occupation
  • Employed - Blue Collar Occupation
  • Work at Home Flag
  • Length of Residence
  • Household Size
  • Congressional District
  • Single Parent with Children
  • Ethnic and Religious Affiliations

Court and Public Data

  • Bankruptcies
  • Criminal Offenses and Convictions
  • Judgments
  • Liens
  • Marriage Licenses
  • State Licenses and Registrations (e.g.,
  • Hunting, Fishing, Professional)
  • Voting Registration and Party Identification​

Social Media and Technology Data​​

  • Electronics Purchases
  • Friend Connections
  • Internet Connection Type ​
  • Internet Provider
  • Level of Usage
  • Heavy Facebook User
  • Heavy Twitter User
  • Twitter User with 250+ Friends
  • Is a Member of over 5 Social Networks
  • Online Influence
  • Operating System
  • Software Purchases
  • Type of Media Posted
  • Uploaded Pictures
  • Use of Long Distance Calling Services
  • Presence of Computer Owner
  • Use of Mobile Devices
  • Social Media and Internet Accounts
  • including: Digg, Facebook, Flickr, Flixster, Friendster, hi5, Hotmail, LinkedIn, Live Journal, MySpace, Twitter, Amazon,
    Bebo, CafeMom, DailyMotion, Match, myYearbook,, Pandora, Photobucket, WordPress, and Yahoo
  • [Editor's Note]: this list is dated and reflects the world of 2014​

​Home and Neighborhood Data

  • Census Tract Data
  • Address Coded as Public/Government
  • Housing
  • Dwelling Type
  • Heating and Cooling
  • Home Equity
  • Home Loan Amount and Interest Rate
  • Home Size
  • Lender Type
  • Length of Residence
  • Listing Price
  • Market Value
  • Move Date
  • Neighborhood Criminal, Demographic, and
  • Business Data
  • Number of Baths
  • Number of Rooms
  • Number of Units
  • Presence of Fireplace
  • Presence of Garage
  • Presence of Home Pool • Rent Price
  • Type of Owner
  • Type of Roof
  • Year Built ​

Travel Data

  • Read Books or Magazines About Travel
  • Travel Purchase - Highest Price Paid
  • Date of Last Travel Purchase
  • Air Services - Frequent Flyer
  • Vacation Property
  • Vacation Type (e.g., Casino, Time Share,
  • Cruises, RV)
  • Cruises Booked
  • Preferred Vacation Destination
  • Preferred Airline

General Interest Data

  • Apparel Preferences
  • Attendance at Sporting Events
  • Charitable Giving
  • Gambling - Casinos
  • Gambling - State Lotteries
  • Thrifty Elders
  • Life Events (e.g., Retirement, Newlywed,
  • Expectant Parent)
  • Magazine and Catalog Subscriptions
  • Media Channels Used
  • Participation in Outdoor Activities (e.g.,
  • Golf, Motorcycling, Skiing, Camping)
  • Participation in Sweepstakes or Contests
  • Pets
  • Dog Owner
  • Political Leanings
  • Assimilation Code
  • Preferred Celebrities
  • Preferred Movie Genres
  • Preferred Music Genres
  • Reading and Listening Preferences
  • Donor (e.g., Religious, Political, Health Causes)
  • Financial Newsletter Subscriber
  • Upscale Retail Card Holder
  • Affluent Baby Boomer
  • Working-Class Moms
  • Working Woman
  • African-American Professional
  • Membership Clubs - Self-Help
  • Membership Clubs - Wines
  • Exercise - Sporty Living
  • Winter Activity Enthusiast
  • Participant - Motorcycling
  • Outdoor/Hunting & Shooting
  • Biker/Hell’s Angels
  • Santa Fe/Native American Lifestyle
  • New Age/Organic Lifestyle
  • Is a Member of over 5 Shopping Sites
  • Media Channel Usage - Daytime TV
  • Bible Lifestyle
  • Leans Left
  • Political Conservative
  • Political Liberal
  • Activism & Social Issues

​Financial Data​​

  • Ability to Afford Products
  • Credit Card User
  • Presence of Gold or Platinum Card
  • Credit Worthiness
  • Recent Mortgage Borrower
  • Pennywise Mortgagee
  • Financially Challenged
  • Owns Stocks or Bonds
  • Investment Interests
  • Discretionary Income Level
  • Credit Active
  • Credit Relationship with Financial or Loan
  • Company
  • Credit Relationship with Low-End
  • Standalone Department Store
  • Number of Investment Properties Owned
  • Estimated Income
  • Life Insurance
  • Loans
  • Net Worth Indicator
  • Underbanked Indicator
  • Tax Return Transcripts
  • Type of Credit Cards​

​Vehicle Data

  • Brand Preferences
  • Insurance Renewal
  • Make & Model
  • Vehicles Owned
  • Vehicle Identification Numbers
  • Vehicle Value Index
  • Propensity to Purchase a New or Used
  • Vehicle
  • Propensity to Purchase a Particular Vehicle
  • Type (e.g., SUV, Coupe, Sedan)
  • Motor Cycle Owner (e.g., Harley, Off-Road
  • Trail Bike)
  • Motor Cycle Purchased 0-6 Months Ago
  • Boat Owner
  • Purchase Date
  • Purchase Information
  • Intend to Purchase - Vehicle

Purchase Behavior Data​​

  • Amount Spent on Goods
  • Buying Activity
  • Method of Payment
  • Number of Orders
  • Buying Channel Preference (e.g., Internet, Mail, Phone)
  • Types of Purchases
  • Military Memorabilia/Weaponry
  • Shooting Games
  • Guns and Ammunition
  • Christian Religious Products
  • Jewish Holidays/Judaica Gifts
  • Kwanzaa/African-Americana Gifts
  • Type of Entertainment Purchased
  • Type of Food Purchased
  • Average Days Between Orders
  • Last Online Order Date
  • Last Offline Order Date
  • Online Orders $500-$999.99 Range
  • Offline Orders $1000+ Range
  • Number of Orders - Low-Scale Catalogs
  • Number of Orders - High-Scale Catalogs
  • Retail Purchases - Most Frequent Category
  • Mail Order Responder - Insurance
  • Mailability Score
  • Dollars - Apparel - Women’s Plus Sizes
  • Dollars - Apparel - Men’s Big & Tall
  • Books - Mind & Body/Self-Help
  • Internet Shopper
  • Novelty Elvis

Health Data

  • Ailment and Prescription Online Search Propensity
  • Propensity to Order Prescriptions by Mail
  • Smoker in Household
  • Tobacco Usage
  • Over the Counter Drug Purchases
  • Geriatric Supplies
  • Use of Corrective Lenses or Contacts
  • Allergy Sufferer
  • Have Individual Health Insurance Plan
  • Buy Disability Insurance
  • Buy Supplemental to Medicare/Medicaid
  • Individual Insurance
  • Brand Name Medicine Preference
  • Magazines - Health
  • Weight Loss & Supplements
  • Purchase History or Reported Interest in
  • Health Topics including: Allergies, Arthritis, Medicine Preferences, Cholesterol, Diabetes, Dieting, Body Shaping, Alternative Medicine, Beauty/Physical Enhancement, Disabilities, Homeopathic Remedies, Organic Focus, Orthopedics, and Senior Needs

Ok, so it's a lot of data.

At Known Privacy, we think this system, the Surveillance Economy, is a bad system. We involuntary have all of our data and privacy taken by unseen companies, using methods we don't understand. They use that data to affect our lives in ways we don't know.

. . .