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Data brokers may be required to open their vaults to consumers

Will "Reclaim Your Name" give consumers more control over collected data?

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In the wake of revelations about the NSA’s PRISM program, which gathers data on Americans in an attempt to keep them safe, yesterday FTC Commissioner Julie Brill dubbed her initiative "Reclaim Your Name.” Data mining outfits with techy-sounding names like Datalogix, Acxiom, and Intelius harvest unfathomable amounts of information every day about everything from what we buy to what we were arrested for, and this information is then packaged and sold to companies trying to sell us goods and service.

All this activity happens without our consent or even our knowing what information they have about us. "Reclaim Your Name" would give consumers the knowledge and the technological tools to reassert some control over their personal data – to be the ones to decide how much to share, with whom, and for what purpose – to reclaim their names,” Brill told an audience at the 23rd Computers Freedom and Privacy Conference in Washington, DC.

Brill has called all the firms in the data mining industry to come to the table and create tools for consumers to have access to information about themselves, much like credit reporting agencies eventually opened their files to consumers.

What exactly do these companies know about us? How do they obtain it? Who buys it? And what rights do consumers/citizens have to manage the trafficking of their data?


Stu Ingis, partner at the Venable law firm and counsel to the direct marketing association, which is the association for the data mining industry.