By Brian New

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DALLAS (CBS 11 I-Team) — From how much you make to your bad habits, what you might consider private personal information is being collected and sold by data brokers.

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What many don’t realize is just how much information data brokers can collect without your knowledge.

To give you an idea, the CBS 11 I-Team gave data expert Murat Kantarcioglu at the University of Texas Dallas two names, Colin and Alyssa Alsheimer, and nothing else.

In less than an hour, he had developed an entire profile on the Dallas couple based on what they posted on social media pages.

“I think if I had to pick up a birthday gift, I think I could do that,” joked Kantarcioglu.

He discovered their birth dates, how they met, their political affiliation, whether they own a gun, and even where they go in the morning to drink coffee.

Kantarcioglu said it was all easy to figure out.

This is the type of information data brokers have on nearly all of us along with our income, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and even our medical conditions.

“I think people don’t know that these bits and pieces that they disclose in different places can be integrated to create a better picture of you,” said Kantarcioglu.

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Data brokers sell this information not just to marketers, but to prospective employers and even the government.

Colin Alsheimer said, “I know what I’m putting out there people can see.”

But he and his wife, Aylssa, said it’s how data brokers are putting information together that can be a little unnerving.

“I think that there is an inherent danger in algorithms,” said Alyssa Alsheimer. “There’s not a lot of transparency there and you don’t know what factors are being included and are being weighted.”

With little regulation and just enough insight, experts say we should all be wondering what’s really being collected when we hit “like”.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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