Until recently, most consumers — and a whole lot of businesses — were unfamiliar with the operations of the data broker industry. Data brokers collect personal information from a variety of public and non-public sources and resell it to other companies. No doubt, there are economic benefits to the flow of certain kinds of information. But legislators, law enforcers, and others have raised concerns about the privacy implications of what goes on behind the scenes.
The FTC’s interest should come as no surprise to anyone who read the Commission’s report, Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: Recommendations for Businesses and Policymakers, issued earlier this year. As the report noted, unless data brokers use information for credit, employment, insurance, housing, or other similar purposes, there are no laws on the books requiring them to maintain the privacy of consumer data. The report called on the industry to improve the transparency of its practices.
Following up on that, the FTC announced that it’s conducting a study of how the industry collects and uses consumer information. The FTC has sent orders to nine data brokers — Commission regulars call these orders 6(b)s — seeking details about the information the companies collect and where they get it; how they use it, store it, and disseminate it; and the extent to which people can get access to information data brokers have about them, correct inaccuracies, and opt out of having their info sold.
What companies received orders? Acxiom, Corelogic, Datalogix, eBureau, ID Analytics, Intelius, Peekyou, Rapleaf, and Recorded Future.
Bookmark the Business Center’s Privacy & Security page for businesses to follow developments in this area.