Congressional Report on the Ways Data Brokers Use and Sell Consumer Information

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Full-text copy of “A Review of the Data Broker Industry: Collection, Use, and Sale of Consumer Data for Marketing Purposes,” a 36-page Congressional report on how data brokers collect, maintain, and sell information on hundreds of millions of consumers. From the report:

“This information makes clear that consumers going about their daily activities – from making purchases online and at brick-and-mortar stores, to using social media, to answering surveys to obtain coupons or prizes, to filing for a professional license – should expect that they are generating data that may well end up in the hands of data brokers. They should expect that this data may well be amassed with many other details about them data brokers already have compiled. And they should expect that data brokers will draw on this data without their permission to construct detailed profiles on them reflecting judgments about their characteristics and predicted behaviors.

The responses also underscore that consumers have minimal means of learning – or providing input – about how data brokers collect, analyze, and sell their information. The wide variety of consumer access and control policies provided by the representative companies show that consumer rights in this arena are offered virtually entirely at the companies’ discretion. The contractual limitations imposed by companies regarding customer disclosures of their data sources place additional barriers to consumer transparency. And the refusal by several major data broker companies to provide the Committee complete responses regarding data sources and customers only reinforces the aura of secrecy surrounding the industry.”

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