Lawmakers Say Data From 'Data Brokers' Is Incomplete
Call it a shadowy world, suggest not enough light has yet to be shed on it
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/8/2012 3:18:59 PM
One question that wasn't unanswered was just how pervasive data collection is. Only one company provided figures, but that was a doozy: 190 million consumers.
"We want to work with the data broker industry so that it is more open about how it collects, uses, and sells Americans' information," said the legislators, which included Privacy Caucus cochairs Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas). "Until then, we will continue our efforts to learn more about this industry and will push for whatever steps are necessary to make sure Americans know how this industry operates and are granted control over their own information."
Among the conclusions the legislators drew from the response letters was that, with the exception of Acxiom, none wanted to be identified as data brokers, preferring "data provider" or "analyzer."
Acxiom was also the only company to provide details on the number of consumers who asked to access its information, which turned out to be as few as 77 out of the whopping 190 million consumers it has collected info on.
Among the other answers the legislators found noteworthy:
In addition to collecting data from telephone directories, mobile phones and government agencies, they companies were also mining social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn; the companies provided "little information" about the distinction between the information they collect (somebody is female), from information they create by analyzing and profiling, e.g. "young female interested in weight loss, coupon for diet pill."
The companies contacted were Acxiom, Epsilon (Alliance Data Systems), Equifax, Experian, Harte-Hanks, Intelius, Fair Isaac, Merkle, and Meredith. To check out all their responses, click here.
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