As real estate agents increasingly move their work online and market themselves as digital service providers, they need to consider what happens to the data they share and how secure their vendors really are.
During a session Thursday at Inman Connect, a panel of digital security experts painted a somewhat frightening picture of data, saying that many consumers have no idea what they’re sharing or how that information is used. And in some cases, even the companies handling data don’t know exactly what they’re allowed to do with all the information they collect.
“Not everyone who touches the data knows the rules,” Eva Pulliam, a senior associate at law firm Arent Fox, told the the crowd. “You’re data’s being collected, moved around, switched around, and no one really knows that it’s happening.”
Pulliam went on to say that data is collected when people walk around malls, or interact with signs.
Leo Pareja, CEO of property data company Remine, added that still more data becomes accessible via digitally enabled purchases, or even on government websites.
“When it comes to public data, people don’t realize what’s publicly available in county websites,” Pareja said.
The examples could go on and on, but the point during Thursday’s session was that data is constantly being generated and that much of it isn’t tightly regulated or even well understood.
“Congress has not caught up to the technology,” Pulliam added, “and that’s one of the issues.”
So what does all this have to do with real estate professionals?
Andrew Flachner, the CEO and co-founder of home search company RealScout, said that the constant flow of data should prompt real estate professionals to carefully consider which companies they choose to handle transactions. Though it’s difficult to know exactly what will happen with data that gets shared digitally, he recommended looking at a company’s track record, size, history and reputation.
“You also need to be realistic about vetting your vendors on other methods,” Flachner added. “You’re not going to want to give that data over to a startup run by two people and a dog.”
Flachner said that agents should be aware that when it comes to data sharing, a “bullet proof contract may be something that doesn’t exist,” though it is still possible to evaluate different companies and choose “a vendor that you trust.”
“I think that it’s important to remember that as a brokerage or as an agent,” he added, “you’re a fiduciary for your client.”