While the U.S. Senate probes data brokers and consumer privacy issues, a recent study by Trusted ID provides some insights into how consumers view data brokers:
- 80% of respondents do not have a good understanding of what a data broker is, what they collect and how they use information
- About 80% of respondents state that it is important to control their data collected and archived by data brokers
- 76% of consumers feel that it is important to be notified about information that data brokers collect
- 80% of respondents want a centralized website to manage their information that is collected and archived by data Brokers
The survey was conducted online between August 23 and September 5, 2012, with a national sample of 2,960 Americans.
Earlier this year, the data broker Spokeo paid $800,000 to settle charges by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it allegedly violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by operating as a credit reporting agency and by maketing consumers' profiles to companies in several industries without implementing methods to protect consumers as required by the FCRA. The complaint (Adobe PDF) filed by the FTC, in June 2012 in the Central District Court in California, read in part:
"Spokeo assembles consumer information from 'hundreds of online and offline sources,' such as social networking sites, data brokers, and other sources to create consumer... In its marketing and advertising, [Spokeo] has promoted the use of its profiles as a factor in deciding whether to interview a job candidate or whether to hire a candidate after a job interview. Spokeo purchased thousands of online advertising keywords including terms targeting employment background checks, applicant screening, and recruiting. Spokeo ran online advertisements with taglines to attract recruiters and encourage HR professionals to use Spokeo to obtain information about job candidates' online activities. Spokeo has affirmatively targeted companies operating in the human resources, background screening, and recruiting industries... Spokeo profiles are consumer reports because they bear on a consumer's character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living and/or other attributes listed in section 603( d), and are "used or expected to be used... in whole or in part" as a factor in determining the consumer's eligibility for employment or other purposes specified in section 604."
Consumers can conclude a couple things from this. First, sloppy data practices by data brokers can abuse consumers' information. Second, what you share online in social networking sites can affect whether or not you get a job, or even get an interview. In the rush to make money and create new revenue streams, social networking sites now use your information in ways you didn't originally intend. The I've Been Mugged blog first reviewed Spokeo in 2010.
Download the Trusted ID survey results in the, "Consumer Perspectives - Data Brokers In Review" report (Adobe PDF).