Data Brokers: Walking the Tightrope
Never mind the government nosing in on your business; there’s a much bigger snooper out there that’s mining to your personal data: thousands of companies whose names you may not even know.
These “data brokers” aren’t “bad”, although a few are irresponsible. They collect and analyze your very personal information, then package it up and sell it for profit to advertisers and the government. Though this rather benign consumer marketing is nothing new, the volume and type of data has changed, thanks to the Internet, making data broking a multibillion dollar venture.
Today’s technology allows data brokers to snatch and sell information about your closest friends, medical conditions, unsavory habits, even your literal footsteps—online and offline.
Data brokers today will classify people into groups such as those with genetic diseases or poverty. These are called vulnerable consumers, with classification names such as Ethnic Second-City Strugglers.
As for medical conditions, there are classifications for particular diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and cancer. There is no legislation that regulates any of this mining into our most private information.
Surprisingly, some of these companies are also in the business of offering identity protection services to consumers.
It’s not known just where the bigger data brokers even harvest their information or to whom they are selling it.
Maybe this is because they consider their client list to be proprietary. One broker even stated that it purchases lists of financially vulnerable people from government agencies so that ultimately, those who are eligible for assistance can be identified. These government clients are public record, said the broker.
The FTC consumer protection head believes that data brokers should be required to allow consumers access to the data that’s been scooped up about them. Meanwhile, data brokers records have become attractive to criminals. Ever since the ChoicePoint breach there have been multiple info/data brokers compromised.
When considering who you choose to do business with, relationships with data brokers, especially any who are also involved with protecting your customers’ identities, should be reassessed.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to AllClearID. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen.See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.