FTC Calls for Data Broker Transparency

By Marianne Kolbasuk McGee | healthcareinfosecurity.com
May 29, 2014

The Federal Trade Commission is urging Congress to enact privacy legislation that would provide consumers with more transparency about the activities of data brokers that collect sensitive health and financial data.

Reacting to the FTC recommendation, two consumer advocates say the explosion of data broker activities in recent years, coupled with regulatory gaps, point to the need for some legislative reforms to protect consumer privacy.

A May 27 FTC report that examined nine companies describes data brokers as “companies whose primary business is collecting personal information about consumers from a variety of sources and aggregating, analyzing and sharing that information, or information derived from it, for purposes such as marketing products, verifying an individual’s identity, or detecting fraud.”

The FTC says data brokers raise privacy concerns for consumers because “significantly, data brokers typically collect, maintain, manipulate and share a wide variety of information about consumers without interacting directly with them.”

The report notes: “In light of these findings, the commission unanimously renews its call for Congress to consider enacting legislation that would enable consumers to learn of the existence and activities of data brokers and provide consumers with reasonable access to information about them held by these entities.”

Deborah Peel, M.D., founder of advocacy group Patient Privacy Rights, says federal legislators and regulators need to crack down on data brokers, especially those that deal with sensitive information, such as health data.

“This is clearly a case where the government must pass laws that require personal control over personally identifiable information to restore our rights to privacy, because we can’t possibly do it ourselves,” Peel says. “Worse, the FTC seems not to have a handle on the size of the health data broker industry. … “Personal information is the ‘oil’ of the digital age – and our personal information belongs to each of us. … If the data brokers want our data, they should just ask. If we think the benefits are worth it, we will say ‘yes’.”

To view the full article, please visit FTC Calls for Data Broker Transparency

 

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