Consumer Privacy Framework Needs to Reflect Changes in Technology and the Marketplace – GAO report to Congress on data brokers

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Full text copy of “Information Resellers: Consumer Privacy Framework Needs to Reflect Changes in Technology and the Marketplace,” the US Government Accountability Office’s report to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. From the report:

"No overarching federal privacy law governs the collection and sale of personal information among private-sector companies, including information resellers. Instead, a variety of laws tailored to specific purposes, situations, or entities governs the use, sharing, and protection of personal information. For example, the Fair Credit Reporting Act limits the use and distribution of personal information collected or used to help determine eligibility for such things as credit or employment, but does not apply to information used for marketing. Other laws apply specifically to health care providers, financial institutions, videotape service providers, or to the online collection of information about children.

The current statutory framework for consumer privacy does not fully address new technologies—such as the tracking of online behavior or mobile devices—and the vastly increased marketplace for personal information, including the proliferation of information sharing among third parties. With regard to data used for marketing, no federal statute provides consumers the right to learn what information is held about them and who holds it. In many circumstances, consumers also do not have the legal right to control the collection or sharing with third parties of sensitive personal information (such as their shopping habits and health interests) for marketing purposes. As a result, although some industry participants have stated that current privacy laws are adequate—particularly in light of self-regulatory measures under way—GAO found that gaps exist in the current statutory framework for privacy. And that the framework does not fully reflect the Fair Information Practice Principles, widely accepted principles for protecting the privacy and security of personal information that have served as a basis for many of the privacy recommendations federal agencies have made.”

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