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Inside Privacy Updates on Developments in Global Privacy & Data Security from Covington & Burling LLP

Congressmen Seek Information from Leading “Data Brokers”

Posted in Advertising & Marketing, Congress, Federal Trade Commission, United States

By Theo Takougang

Last week, a group of eight House members sent letters to nine “major data brokerage companies,” seeking detailed information about “the business of data brokerage,” which the Congressmen described as “the collecting, assembling, maintaining and selling to third-parties of consumers’ personal information.”  The letter appears to have been spurred by a June 16 New York Times article about Acxiom, one of the companies that received a letter.  The Federal Trade Commission separately has called for greater scrutiny of “data brokers” and asked Congress to pass legislation requiring such companies to “provide consumers with access to information about them held by a data broker.”

The letters cited a particular concern over data brokers’ “ranking system[s], which classif[y] some consumers as high-value prospects, while dismissing others as . . . ‘waste.’”  According to the letters, this practice may have an adverse effect on “access to education, healthcare, and employment, and other economic opportunities” — particularly for children and teens. 

The letters seek a broad range of information, including a list of each entity that has provided the company with data about consumers; a list of each type of data that the company has collected about consumers; the methods by which the company has collected data from or about consumers; as well as information about consumers’ ability to access, correct and control the use of their information.  Responses to the letters are due August 15.