Who oversees data brokers selling your personal info? No one

Who oversees data brokers selling your personal info? No one

Who oversees data brokers selling your personal info? No one

You probably already know that you have precious little privacy, and that shadowy data brokers have built the buying and selling of people’s personal information into a multibillion-dollar industry.

But did you know this: Nobody knows how many so-called list owners and list brokers are operating nationwide. The best guess is tens of thousands.

Or this: These businesses operate largely unregulated, overseen day to day by no official authority.

And if they get things wrong — that is, if there’s ever need to correct files as a result of a death, divorce or similarly life-changing event — there’s pretty much nothing you can do to hold these firms accountable.

Federal regulators find this just as frustrating as consumers.

“We think there is a real problem with the lack of transparency in the data-broker industry,” said Maneesha Mithal, associate director of the Federal Trade Commission’s division of privacy and identity protection.

Privacy was in the news Thursday as the Federal Communications Commission approved sweeping rules aimed at ensuring that broadband providers don’t abuse customers' browsing history, mobile location data and other sensitive info. Service providers must get customers’ permission before using or sharing such information.

Read Also:
How Astronomer Is Helping to Bridge the Big Data Gap

“It's the consumers' information,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. “How it is used should be the consumers' choice. Not the choice of some corporate algorithm.”

That sort of thinking, however, doesn’t extend to data brokers.

Questions about the regulatory landscape for info merchants arose after I wrote last week about an Encino woman whose husband was receiving pitches from health insurers 14 years after his death.

I asked the various insurers where they got the impression the guy was still alive, and they said they’d purchased his name and address from list brokers.

But when I asked which list brokers they used, all I got was crickets. In most cases, consumers have no way of knowing where such data was obtained or who should be contacted to fix errors.

“It’s virtually impossible for consumers to have a window on this marketplace,” said Mithal.

The FTC has proposed legislation that would address some of these problems. But it’s gotten nowhere.

Read Also:
Watch the Advent of Deep Sea Mining Unfold With this Big Data Tool

Meanwhile, the number of data brokers continues to grow, with each firm exploiting the convergence of public records and digital technology.

“Consumers don’t realize how much information they give out,” said Suzanne Doyle-Ingram, president of Strategic List Services, a list broker with offices in the United States and Canada. “It starts with your phone service. As soon as you sign up, that information becomes available.”

After that, she said, every survey you fill out, every magazine you subscribe to, adds more pieces to the puzzle. Before long, a data broker knows your name, address, age, hobbies, interests and other details of your life that can be parsed into a variety of mailing lists, depending on a marketer’s needs.

 



Chief Analytics Officer Europe

25
Apr
2017
Chief Analytics Officer Europe

15% off with code 7WDCAO17

Read Also:
Why Data Science is a Team Sport at AOL

Chief Analytics Officer Spring 2017

2
May
2017
Chief Analytics Officer Spring 2017

15% off with code MP15

Read Also:
Top 10 Data Science Skills, and How to Learn Them
Read Also:
Analytics Trends 2016

Big Data and Analytics for Healthcare Philadelphia

17
May
2017
Big Data and Analytics for Healthcare Philadelphia

$200 off with code DATA200

Read Also:
The future of big data is all about location

SMX London

23
May
2017
SMX London

10% off with code 7WDATASMX

Read Also:
Top 10 Data Science Skills, and How to Learn Them

Data Science Congress 2017

5
Jun
2017
Data Science Congress 2017

20% off with code 7wdata_DSC2017

Read Also:
Watch the Advent of Deep Sea Mining Unfold With this Big Data Tool

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *