"You may not know them, but data brokers know you," FTC Chairwoman
Five things you need to know about data collection:
MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF DATA COLLECTED
The nine data brokers studied by the FTC were:
Of the nine, the report said, one data broker's database had information on 1.4 billion consumer transactions, such as any purchase made with a credit card or with a customer loyalty card.
The broker then peeled it down further, storing over 700 billion aggregated data elements — information such as how many times a consumer called customer service, or something as simple as what kind of toothpaste that consumer buys.
WHERE BROKERS FIND THEIR INFORMATION ON YOU
All over. They cull information on you from government, commercial and other publicly available sources.
For example, the report said, they use
The commission report said some brokers get information by crawling social media sites like
THE GOOD AND THE BAD
First, the good.
Data broker products can help prevent fraud. Some brokers offer identity verification products, where a client can see if a Social Security Number is associated with someone who is dead, or whether the address used by the consumer is a prison address, the FTC said. The information gathered can also improve the kinds of product offers consumers get either online or in the mail.
Now, the bad.
A consumer, for example, may be prevented from completing a purchase based on bad, incorrect or outdated information collected by a data broker. The report said brokers could also draw conclusions about consumers that might seem innocuous but could be used in a negative way. For example, a person classified as a "biker enthusiast" might get coupons from motorcycle dealers but also could see higher insurance if the information is used to conclude the person engages in risky behaviour, said the commission study.
WHAT COULD BE DONE TO HELP CONSUMERS
The FTC recommends that
The report also recommends that brokers be required to disclose the names and categories of their data sources so people could correct faulty information.
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