FTC Sends Warning Letters To 10 Data Brokers

While it often seems like information brokers can and do sell whatever data they can collect to anyone willing to pay, there are regulations in place regarding the sale of certain types of personal information. Following a test to see how well brokers were adhering to these rules, the Federal Trade Commission has issued warning letters to 10 data brokers who appeared willing to sell consumer information without abiding by standards set forth in the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Undercover FTC investigators posed as private individuals or reps for businesses seeking to purchase sensitive information — creditworthiness, insurance eligibility, employment suitability — as any data broker that collects such information is deemed a consumer reporting agency under the FCRA. Thus, these brokers must reasonably verify both the identities of buyer of said information, and that the purchased data is to be used for legitimate purposes.

The FTC attempted to make such purchases at 45 companies; 10 brokers — 4Nannies; Brokers Data; Case Breakers; ConsumerBase; CrimCheck.com; People Search Now; U.S. Information Search; U.S. Data Corporation; USA People Search; and one unnamed company — may have violated by the FCRA by indicating they would sell the data without full FCRA compliance.

The agency cautions that none of the named companies are yet the subject of any formal complaints. Rather, the letters are meant to encourage these brokers to re-evaluate their sales practices to A) determine if the products they sell do indeed qualify the business as a consumer reporting agency; and B) comply accordingly.

It appears that this investigation is separate from the FTC’s study of the data collection and sales practices of nine major information brokers.