Congress Considers Regulating Data Brokers

Some members of Congress want to pass a law regulating data brokers that collect and sell consumer contact and demographic information.

Privacy Key

This consumer information is the main source of data for the burgeoning people search and background check services that can be found everywhere on the internet nowadays.

Over the past several years, the people finder sites that let anyone search for a person’s contact information and public records have mushroomed from a few sites to hundreds or thousands of sites that now offer this information.

The Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act is being reintroduced in Congress. The bill proposes federal oversight for the gathering, retention, sale and use of people’s information by data brokers.

The bill defines “data brokers” as any commercial organization that collects, assembles, or maintains personal information on people who are not customers or employees of that organization in order to resell their information or provide third party access to the information.

The law would allow people to prohibit these consumer data brokers from collecting, using and reselling their personal information.

In addition, the law would create a standardized procedure for correcting information.

The Federal Trade Commission would be responsible for creating a centralized web portal where consumers could learn about their data rights and obtain their information records from these brokers.

The bill is supported by consumer watchdog groups like the Center for Digital Democracy & Consumer Watchdog and FTC Commissioner Julie Brill has been public in her support for the bill.

Last year the Federal Trade Commission released a detailed report on the consumer information and data broker industry called “Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability”.

The report was the result of a lengthy and detailed FTC investigation into the consumer data industry.

You can read the FTC report as well as the official press release here: 2014 FTC Data Broker Report and Press Release.

The Direct Marketing Association has criticized the bill, saying that it is unnecessary due to self-regulating efforts by the industry and the critical need for access to consumer information by businesses.

Some of the big consumer data brokers and resellers that would be regulated under The Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act include: Acxiom, Epsilon, BlueKai, CoreLogic, Datalogix, eBureau, ID Analytics and Intelius.

If the bill passes, this would mark the first time that the consumer data industry has been regulated by Congress.