Dark data is consumer information that businesses collect without having any current use for the data. Businesses sometimes collect far more consumer information than they actually need, and often store it indefinitely. Some businesses may not be thinking carefully about what data they actually need, but others may have a more dangerous purpose. Sometimes, a business will cast a wide net to get as much personal information as possible because it intends to hold onto the information until it can figure out how to monetize or sell it for maximum value.
This personal information is called “dark data” because consumers typically don’t have a full list of all the companies that have their information and which ones have held onto it. And consumers don’t know when this data may appear again and potentially be used against them. It could end up in an identity thief’s hands. It could be sold to a life insurance company and used as a basis to deny the consumer a life insurance policy. It could be bought by an employer and result in the consumer losing a job. Part of the reason “dark data” is scary is because of the uncertainty of the unknown.