The Federal Trade Commission has ordered nine data brokerage companies to provide the U.S. agency with information about how they collect and use data about consumers.
The FTC will use the information they gather to review privacy practices in the data-broker industry.
Data brokers collect personal information about consumers from a variety of public and non-public sources, and resell the information to other companies.
In some ways, this data ends up benefitting consumers.
For example, this information about consumers enables companies to prevent fraud. Data brokers also provide this information to enable their customer companies to better market their products and services.
However, consumers are often unaware of the existence of data brokers or how they intend to use the data they collect. This lack of transparency also means that even when data brokers offer consumers the ability to access their data, or provide other tools, many consumers do not know how to exercise this right.
There are no current laws requiring data brokers to maintain the privacy of consumer data, unless they use that data for credit, employment, insurance, housing, or other similar purposes.
The nine data brokers receiving orders from the FTC are: 1) Acxiom, 2) Corelogic, 3) Datalogix, 4) eBureau, 5) ID Analytics, 6) Intelius, 7) Peekyou, 8) Rapleaf, and 9) Recorded Future. The FTC is seeking details about:
- The nature and sources of the consumer information the data brokers collect;
- how they use, maintain, and disseminate the information; and
- The extent to which the data brokers allow consumers to access and correct their information or to opt out of having their personal information sold.
Earlier this year the FTC called on the data broker industry to improve the transparency of its practices in the report, Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: Recommendations for Businesses and Policymakers.
The FTC will use the responses it receives to prepare a study and to make recommendations on whether, and how, the data broker industry could improve its privacy practices.