FTC Seeks to Protect Consumers’ Data

Relying again on a favorite resource for the latest news in identity theft protection, this week’s blog comes from OnGuardOnline.gov. In today’s economy, Big Data is big business. And data brokers — companies that collect consumers’ personal information and resell or share that information with others — play a key role.

The Federal Trade Commission recently released a study of nine data brokers. These data brokers collect personal information about consumers from a wide range of sources — including public records, loyalty cards, websites and social media — and provide information for a wide range of purposes — including verifying someone’s identity, marketing products and detecting fraud.

Here’s a summary of what the FTC learned:

• Data brokers collect consumer data from numerous sources, largely without consumers’ knowledge.

• Data brokers collect and store billions of data elements, including some on nearly every U.S. consumer.

• Data brokers combine and analyze data about consumers to make potentially sensitive inferences.

Under the circumstances, the Commission unanimously renewed its call for Congress to consider enacting legislation that would enable consumers to learn of the existence and activities of these data brokers and provide consumers with reasonable access to information held about them by these entities. With respect to brokers that sell marketing products, a majority of the Commission had four specific suggestions for Congress:

1. Consider giving consumers a way to easily identify which brokers have data about them and where they can go to access it or opt out. One way to do that: A central online portal.

2. Consider whether data brokers should have to clearly disclose that they not only collect raw data, but also combine it with other information to draw inferences about people. That’s especially important when it comes to sensitive topics like health conditions.

3. Consider requiring data brokers to reveal more about their sources. That would make it easier for consumers to track down and correct the source of inaccurate information (for example, a mistake in a public record).

4. Consider whether consumer-facing businesses should have to clearly disclose that they share information with data brokers and to give consumers choices, including opting out. For sensitive data – health information is one example – the FTC is asking Congress to consider legislation to require consumer-facing sources to get people’s affirmative express consent before they collect it in the first place.

The Report finishes with three let’s-get-real recommendations for the data broker industry: Implement privacy by designs, come up with better ways to stop collecting information from children and teens, and take reasonable precautions to ensure downstream data users don’t use it for illegal purposes.

For the good of our local and global community, these are real issues to keep in the forefront. For more on identity theft protection, please visit www.hvshred.com

by HV Shred