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    Wall Street Journal: Data Brokers Come Under Fresh Scrutiny

    The Wall Street Journal reports on the issue of consumer privacy and data brokers, who collect and sell information on consumers:

    WASHINGTON—Regulators and lawmakers are stepping up scrutiny of a burgeoning business in which data brokers compile profiles of financially troubled consumers from social media and other sources and market them as sales leads to lenders.

    The Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and lawmakers concerned about the identification of financially at-risk consumers are examining the practice and intensifying efforts to police data brokers who may skirt federal law. […]

    Data brokers long have compiled information on consumers that are sold as leads to companies, but scrutiny has increased as the number of data brokers climbs, more consumers are profiled, and the Internet and other technologies have made it easier for the brokers to access, analyze and share data. […]

    On Wednesday, Sens. Rockefeller and Edward Markey (D., Mass.) introduced legislation that would require data brokers to be accountable and transparent about the information they collect and sell. The bill would prohibit data brokers from collecting or soliciting consumer information in deceptive ways, and it would allow consumers to access and correct their information. Consumers also would be able to opt out of having their information collected and sold for marketing purposes. […]

    Among the concerns is that such information is being collected without consumers’ knowledge or ability to dispute the data. And there are worries the data could be used to target individuals with products that may have high interest rates or trap them into a long cycle of debt, among others. […]

    The profiling and predictive scores are part of a trend to customize ads and offers by using social-media accounts, online-search and purchasing histories, smartphones and public records to harness customer information. The data may include hobbies, financial problems and whether a consumer suffers from depression or athlete’s foot, according to websites of companies that offer lists or compile data.

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