A bipartisan group of six lawmakers joined Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-MA-7) and Joe Barton (R-TX-6), co-Chairmen of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, and has sent letters to nine major data brokerage companies querying each about how it collects, assembles and sells consumer information to third parties. Other signatories on the letters include Representatives Henry A. Waxman (D-CA-30), Steve Chabot (R-OH-1), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC-1), Austin Scott (R-Ga-8), Bobby Rush (D-IL-1), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9).
Representing a multi-billion dollar industry, data brokers have aggregated information about hundreds of millions of Americans from both online and offline sources, which they then sell to third parties for targeted advertising and other purposes, often with little consumer knowledge. The New York Times story, “A Data Giant is Mapping, and Sharing, the Consumer Genome” detailed how data brokers have developed consumer profiles that go beyond basic demographic information to include buying habits, household health concerns, political affiliations and even time spent on vacation. The lawmakers’ letters request information from the data brokers on polices and practices related to privacy, transparency and consumer notification, including as they relate to children and teenagers.
“By combining data from numerous offline and online sources, data brokers have developed hidden dossiers on almost every U.S. consumer,” write the lawmakers in the letter to the data brokers. “This large scale aggregation of the personal information of hundreds of millions of American citizens raises a number of serious privacy concerns.”
The companies sent letters include Acxiom, Epsilon (Alliance Data Systems), Equifax, Experian, Harte-Hanks, Intelius, Fair Isaac, Merkle, and Meredith Corp.
The lawmakers ask the nine data brokers to provide information that includes:
A list of entities that have provided data from or about consumers to the company
A list of data items collected from or about consumers, and the methods by which it is collected
Products or services offered to third parties that utilize consumer data.
The information consumers are given access to, if it is requested, and any policies around sharing or deletion of that data.
Encryption or other safety protocols used to protect data.
The link to the letters may be viewed at:
The information in this bulletin is similar to what Representative Markey has sought in the past. ISPLA will continue to explain to Congress the differences between data brokers and professional investigators and curtail legislation that attempts to expand the definition of info brokers to include private investigators.
ISPLA Director of Government Affairs
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