FTC To Investigate What Info Data Brokers Are Collecting & Selling About Consumers

You may remember earlier this fall when Facebook’s new partnership with data broker Datalogix spurred privacy advocates to ask the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. Now it looks like Datalogix, along with eight other data brokers, will be going under the agency’s microscope.

The FTC announced today that has issued orders to Datalogix and several other data brokers — Acxiom, Corelogic, eBureau, ID Analytics, Intelius, Peekyou, Rapleaf, and Recorded Future — requiring that they tell the agency about how they collect and use data about consumers.

Each broker must provide the following information to the FTC:
– the nature and sources of the consumer information it collects;
– how it uses, maintains, and disseminates the information;
– the extent to which it allow consumers to access and correct their information or to opt out of having their personal information sold.

There are some instances — involving credit, employment, insurance, housing — in which laws regulate the use of data collected by these brokers. But the tracking of consumer behavior for the purpose of commerce is growing and largely unregulated.

In a report [PDF] released in March, the FTC created a voluntary set of best practices for businesses based on the concepts of privacy by design, consumer control, and increased transparency for the collection and use of consumer data.

“[C]onsumers are often unaware of the existence of data brokers as well as the purposes for which they collect and use consumers’ data,” writes the FTC about today’s announcement. “This lack of transparency also means that even when data brokers offer consumers the ability to access their data, or provide other tools, many consumers do not know how to exercise this right.”