FTC Initiative Wants You To “Reclaim Your Name” From Big Data Brokers

We all know that there are companies out there sucking up consumers’ information and selling it — sometimes to people or entities they shouldn’t — but what no one really knows is exactly who has that data. While there are a few ways for consumers to check activity data on specific sites, there’s no catch-all resource for people to go to and see what their name/info is up to. The Federal Trade Commission wants to change that with a “Reclaim Your Name” proposal.

Julie Brill, a commissioner with the FTC, introduced the effort at the Computers Freedom and Privacy Conference in Washington, DC, reports The Verge.

She cited one notable example of customers not realizing how their data is being used to target them, wherein Target revealed a teen’s pregnancy to her father by sending her coupons for baby products. All by taking a close look at her purchases and shopping habits.

“Imagine walking into Target and reading a sign on the wall or a disclosure on a receipt that says: ‘We will analyze your purchases to predict what health conditions you have so that we can provide you with discounts and coupons you may want.’ That clear statement would surprise – and alarm – most of us,” Brill noted.

The Reclaim Your Name initiative would seek to remedy that and give consumers a clear idea of who is using their data and when, and for what. Says Brill:

Reclaim Your Name would empower the consumer to find out how brokers are collecting and using data; give her access to information that data brokers have amassed about her; allow her to opt-out if she learns a data broker is selling her information for marketing purposes; and provide her the opportunity to correct errors in information used for substantive decisions – like credit, insurance, employment, and other benefits.

So far this is just a proposal, but Brill says she hopes that others in the industry would sign on and make it a reality. It’s unclear at this point whether there would be changes like clear warnings before a consumer hands over personal data about how it would be used and who would have access to it, or how consumers will tap into this data log chronicling the whereabouts of their info.

Brill says she’ll be working out the details in the coming months to refine the plan.

‘Reclaim Your Name': FTC commissioner wants companies to reveal what user data they collect [The Verge]