UNITED STATES INDUSTRY REGULATOR the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), wants organisations and industries that deal with consumer data to be more transparent and open about what they do with it.
The FTC has asked Congress to create rules around what it calls data brokers, a catch-all term for entities that collect, use and sell "immense" amounts of data.
"The extent of consumer profiling today means that data brokers often know as much - or even more - about us than our family and friends, including our online and in-store purchases, our political and religious affiliations, our income and socioeconomic status, and more," said FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez.
"It's time to bring transparency and accountability to bear on this industry on behalf of consumers, many of whom are unaware that data brokers even exist."
The FTC wants citizens to have more control over such data and the right to edit it, or opt out of its collection and use (PDF). It added that while some benefits can come from collections of data, so too can issues arise. "Data broker practices also raise privacy concerns," it said.
The FTC looked at nine data brokers, and named them, and said that a single one is holding information on 1.4 billion consumer transactions. The same company adds over 3 billion new elements to its database every month.
The companies named by the FTC are Acxiom, CoreLogic, Datalogix, eBureau, ID Analytics, Intelius, Peekyou, Rapleaf and Recorded Future. The FTC said that it ordered themto provide the data.
No illegal activity was found in the documents, but the FTC is concerned about a number of things, including unanticipated uses of the data - which might impact badly on the individual, and "potentially sensitive inferences" that might reveal more about people than they would like. µ
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