Lawmakers Query Data Brokers on Privacy

By John Wagley

A bipartisan group of lawmakers have sent letters to nine of the country’s largest data aggregating companies, asking them questions about how they collect, use, and sell consumer data to third parties.

The multimillion dollar data brokerage industry collects data on hundreds of millions of Americans and then sells that data for purposes such as targeted advertising, often with little consumer knowledge, according to lawmakers. The large-scale collection and sale of data may have a significant impact on people’s ability to access areas such as healthcare, employment, and education, they said. The letters were signed by Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton (R-TX), co-chairmen of the Congressional Bi-partisan Privacy Caucus, along with six other lawmakers.

“By combining data from numerous offline and online sources, data brokers have developed hidden dossiers on almost every U.S. consumer,” the letters stated. This data aggregation raises “a number of serious privacy concerns.”

Companies that were sent letters include Acxiom, Epsilon, Equifax, Experian, Harte-Hanks, Intelius, Fair Isaac, Merkle, and the Meredith Corp.

The letters asked for information including a list of data items collected about consumers, the companies’ polices on granting consumers access to data collected on them, and any security measures such as encryption that may be used to protect data. 

 ♦ Photo by Flickr/Daniel Caw


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