The Proliferation of Online Information Brokers:
Noncompliance with Their Own Privacy Policies and Other Problems


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Copyright © 2009-2014
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Posted March 30, 2009

Comments by:
Beth Givens, Director
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

Presented to President-Elect Obama’s Transition Team:
The Honorable Susan Ness, Professor Peter Swire, Professor Philip Weiser
as part of their meeting with privacy and consumer advocates
December 16, 2008


There are dozens of information brokers in the marketplace today that make information about individuals widely available, often with no questions asked, some of them at no charge and others for a fee.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has received many complaints about such companies over the years. We have also provided a resource on our web site, enabling individuals to locate the myriad of such companies and providing information on how to opt-out for those companies that offer an opt-out opportunity. You can find these resources on our site here: www.privacyrights.org/ar/infobrokers.htm

A common complaint we receive is that an individual has contacted the company with a request to opt-out, but that the company has not complied. Many such individuals have made several such requests of a single company, only to be repeatedly ignored.

Another complaint is that such companies even exist. Information brokers typically have no direct relationship with their data subjects. Yet, they can compile and sell such personal information without individuals’ consent. Our web site explains that information brokers obtain most of the information that they sell or otherwise provide from public records and other publicly available sources.

Many individuals have taken extraordinary steps to keep their personal information private. They are puzzled when their efforts are for naught. We were recently contacted by an individual who has successfully kept her home address off such data broker web sites for many years. Through her own extensive research, she is well-informed about the data broker industry. Despite her efforts, she recently learned her address is now published on the public web site of one of these companies. If this person, who appears to be quite knowledgeable about privacy protection strategies, cannot keep her own home address private, it is an indication that this is a much larger issue.

For illustration purposes, following are the names of several information brokers (some are inter-related). This list -- which is not comprehensive -- is evidence enough, in my opinion, that this industry is ripe for FTC scrutiny.

1-800-USSearch
1-800-WhoWhere
555-1212.com
Abika
Accurint
Acxiom
Address.com
Ameridex
Ancestral Findings
Ancestry
Anywho
Background Record Finder
Cellular Phone Records
ChoicePoint
CIA Data
Courts Online.org
DA Plus
DEX Media
Docusearch
E-FindOutTheTruth.com
Enformian
Family Tree Maker
Find a Friend
Genealogy
Genealogy Lookups
IAF
InfoSpace
InfoUSA
Instant PeopleFinder
Integrascan
Integrity
Intelius
Knowx
LexisNexis
Locate People
Lost People
Lycos

Melissa Data
MerlinData
My Family
My People Reports
National PeopleFinders
OmniTrace
Online Background Checks
People Data
People Find
People Find USA
People Finder
People Lookup
People of America
People Record Finder
Phone Book
Phone Number
Private Eye
Public Data
Public Record Finder
Public Record Service
[The] Public Records
Public Records Now
Roots Web
Search Detective
Social Security Search USA
Super Pages
Switchboard
USA People Search
US Search
Veromi
Vital Search
Vital Search Worldwide
Voter Lists Online
WestLaw
White Pages







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