FTC asks Congress to regulate data brokers

The agency wants to make it more difficult for data brokers to obtain information and also to force them to notify consumers when they use it.
By Ananth Baliga  |  May 27, 2014 at 4:08 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 27 (UPI) -- The Federal Trade Commission has asked the U.S. Congress to compel data brokers to be more transparent about the information they collect and use.

The FTC released a report Tuesday outlining findings from a long-delayed investigation into the data broker industry, citing a "lack of transparency" among companies that collect consumer data. Data brokers collect these data, which include online and offline purchases, income and religious and political affiliations, and create profiles which are then sold to marketers, retailers, banks and other companies.

"The extent of consumer profiling today means that data brokers often know as much -- or even more -- about us than our family and friends, including our online and in-store purchases, our political and religious affiliations, our income and socioeconomic status, and more," said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in a statement.

The data broker industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and has come under increased scrutiny and criticism from privacy advocates who have said that the process needs to be more transparent. The report states that many of these firms are buying and selling this data without the knowledge of the FTC.

The FTC wants Congress to pass legislation that mandates data brokers notify consumers when their information is being shared and make it harder to access specific data, like health information, without the express consent of the person in question.

Sen. John Rockerfeller, D-W.Va., who heads the Senate Commerce Committee, had introduced legislation to regulate data brokers, but it hasn't received much attention yet.

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