MONTPELIER – With Vermont’s new law requiring internet data brokers to register with the state, the once secretive industry is beginning to come out into the open and operate like any other business. Consumers, or “products,” can finally see behind the curtain and observe how their data is being used. One fact that stands out is the fact that personal information harvested from Vermonters is not worth as much as some might assume.
“Deep Discounts on Like and Dislikes!” reads one button, linking to a page where companies can purchase Vermonters’ information. “Huge Sale on Vermont Data!” reads another. While profiles on residents of California and Florida are sold at a premium, data miners are having a hard time offloading the personal profiles of Vermont residents, often selling them off for less than ten percent of what folks from other states might fetch.
“We have a ton of information on Vermonters,” says Dewey Plistis, a data miner specializing in Facebook ‘quizzes.’ “The problem is, nobody wants it, because Vermonters don’t seem to buy very much. I mean, how many tractors can you sell them? And have you seen those broken down cars they drive? They’re still watching CRT TVs, for god’s sake! The data is practically useless!”
Other predatory companies that buy and sell pieces of your soul online agree that Vermonters are a hard sell. “I can tell you what your favorite brand of vacuum cleaner is,” said one broker, “but what good is that to me if you keep using that same vacuum for thirty years?!”
The state’s focus on reducing waste and reusing products and materials may have something to do with their reluctance to make impulse purchases online, or it could be that they are just cheap. “I ain’t cheap,” said one Vermonter. “I’m frugal. And I don’t need no new vacuum. What’s wrong with the one I got? Still works, long as the duct tape around the hose don’t come off. And if it does, I got more duct tape. Saw an ad for duct tape online the other day, but I already got some. You can’t trick me.”