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Data miners: Minding your business
By:   //  Consumer News

by Carol Thompson

Have you ever wondered how so much of your personal information became so public, even if you aren’t someone who uses the Internet often?

It’s due to data miners- companies that collect all of the information they can find on an individual and sell the information to anyone willing to pay. If the company is reporting erroneous information, the individual, in many instances, will be required to pay a fee to have it removed.

That may not be the case in the future. Last month a bill was introduced that, if passed, will hold data brokers more accountable. The Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act of 2105 would require data brokers, also known as data miners, that would allow consumers to see and correct personal information held by data brokers and tell those businesses to stop sharing or selling it for marketing purposes. It would also require the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to craft rules for a centralized website for consumers to view a list of data brokers covered by the bill.

Under the proposed bill, data brokers would be held accountable similar to credit reporting agencies. The brokers would be required to, upon request, provide the consumer with the information they hold at no charge at least once per year. The consumer must be provided with the information in a format that can be readily understood by the consumer.

An individual may also dispute the accuracy of any information by requesting in writing that the data broker correct the information. The broker would have the right to verify the identity of the requester.

The data broker would also be required to maintain an Internet website and place a clear and conspicuous notice on the site instructing an individual how to review information under the express preferences, such as use and sale of information for marketing purposes.

Co-sponsor of the bill, Senator Edward Markey (Massachusetts) said in a statement that the bill is needed because data brokers are a “shadow industry of surreptitious data collection that has amassed covert dossiers on hundreds of millions of Americans.” He added, “Data brokers seem to believe that there’s no such thing as privacy.”

Other sponsors of the bill include Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island) and Al Franken (Minnesota).



Image: Flick/Alan Cleaver

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