US Data Sellers, under investigation

New York Times informs today that eight members of Congress have opened a sweeping investigation into data brokers — companies that collect, collate, analyze and sell billions of details annually about consumers’ offline, online and mobile activities for marketing and other purposes.

Several congressmen sent letters to big data brokers.

In the letters, the legislators requested extensive information about how the companies amass, refine, sell and share consumer data.

Data brokers often collect details about people’s financial, retail and recreational activities to help clients like airlines, automakers, banks, credit card issuers and retailers retain their best customers and woo new ones.

The letter’s recipients included marketing services firms like Acxiom and Epsilon; consumer reporting agencies like Experian and Equifax, which have separate credit reporting and consumer analytics divisions; Fair Isaac, now known as FICO, the credit scoring services company; and Intelius, a company that offers reverse phone look-up and background check services. The letter gave the companies three weeks to respond.

The letter asked each company to provide a list of all of its sources of data; a list of the specific kinds of consumer information, including ethnic, race or religious data, it collects; descriptions of the data collection methods used, like tracking of social network or mobile phone activity; explanations about each product and service the company has marketed to third parties since January 2009, and the type of data used in such products and services; details about whether any of the products or services are federally regulated; explanations about the security measures used to protect consumer data; as well as descriptions of the opt-out, data access, correction and deletion options the company offers consumers.

Read the whole story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/25/technology/congress-opens-inquiry-into-data-brokers.html?_r=1

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