Data Brokers: Buying and Selling Your Personal Information

Perhaps you just purchased a new home.  Maybe you’re getting married or expecting a baby.  You bought a new car.  You subscribed to a magazine.  Or maybe you just ordered a pizza.  What do all of these activities have in common?  There’s a good chance that your personal information may have fallen into the hands of a data broker. 

While data brokers often remain invisible to consumers, they have the potential to significantly impact our lives.  It can be challenging, if not impossible, for consumers to escape the collection of personal data by data brokers. 

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse’s new guide Data Brokers and Your Privacy discusses the data broker industry and the “digital dossiers” that they assemble about individuals.  These dossiers often include a surprisingly broad range of information.

Victim of a Data Breach? What Should You Do?

If you have been a victim of a data breach, you need to understand that there are differences between the types of breaches and the potential for both financial fraud and/or identity theft.

 

1. Understand what kind of breach occurred. You can read PRC’s Fact Sheet 17b: How to Deal with a Security Breach or take a look at our Chronology of Data Breaches for examples of the types of breaches. Depending on the breach specifics and the state in which you live, you may receive a breach notification letter that describes what happened. You might also find out about a breach through media reports.

Understanding Health and Medical Privacy

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has recently updated and expanded our consumer guides on health privacy.  We are excited to release our updated HIPAA Health Privacy Fact Sheets.   Visit our Medical Privacy page to find additional resources on health-related privacy issues.  As always, please feel free to contact us with your privacy questions and complaints

Alert: Parents--Five Questions to Ask Before Your Child Downloads a Mobile App

Summer is here and school is out. Kids and teens have a lot of free time which means they will be on their (or your) mobile devices even more than normal.  Smartphones, tablets and other devices provide kids with countless beneficial apps and tools they can use to stay connected, entertain themselves, and learn. At the same time, these can also present privacy risks.

You probably can't, and don't want to, monitor everything your child does on a mobile device.  However, there are a few basic questions you should consider to help safeguard both their experience and their (and your) data.

 

FTC Issues Warning Letter to Tenant Screening Companies: PRC's Assistance Acknowledged

In researching our latest Fact Sheet 38: A Renter’s Guide to Privacy, we compiled a list of data brokers that provide tenant screening services to landlords.  We shared this information with the Federal Trade Commission and indicated our concerns. In general, we receive more complaints about the data broker industry than any other privacy topic.

The FTC subsequently notified six such companies and warned them of their obligation to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  For more information, see the Federal Trade Commission's April 3, 2013 press release. Read the letter warning six tenant screening companies of their obligation to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, here.

If you have encountered problems with similar companies in your efforts to rent a property, we encourage you to file a complaint with the FTC.  You may also contact the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse with your questions and complaints.

Data Breaches: A Year in Review

2011 was a significant year for data security, with some of the biggest data breaches in our history reported. So far in 2011, we’ve tracked 535 breaches involving 30.4 million sensitive records. This brings the total reported records breached in the U.S. since 2005 to the alarming number of 543 million.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has been tracking breaches since 2005 and publishes aChronology of Data Breaches. The Chronology counts the number of records leaked that contain information useful to identity thieves, such as Social Security numbers, financial account numbers, driver's license numbers – and in some states, medical information.

Read our list of the top half dozen most significant data breaches in 2011.

Survive Cyber Monday with our Top 10 Online Shopping Tips

The phrase "Cyber Monday" was coined several years ago to describe the phenomenon of millions of workers returning to their offices on the Monday after Thanksgiving and spending a good part of the day doing their holiday shopping online.  By November 2010, Cyber Monday had become the biggest online shopping day in history and the first to surpass the billion-dollar threshold. 

By all indications, Cyber Monday 2011 will be a blockbuster day for online retailers.  Shopping online can be a convenient, time-saving, and economical alternative to shopping in a traditional "bricks and mortar" retail store.  However, it's important for consumers to take basic steps to protect their privacy.  If you plan to shop online on Cyber Monday (or on any other day of the year), following these 10 tips will help to protect you from fraud, identity theft and other privacy intrusions.

Internet Privacy: A Contradiction in Terms?

The  director of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Beth Givens, went head to head in last Sunday's San Diego Union-Tribune with Michael Robertson, a San Diego-based high-tech entrepreneur who founded MP3.com and Gizmo5 among other ventures. The topic was online privacy. Givens and Robertson each contributed op-ed pieces to the Dialog section of the Union-Tribune.

Oct. 11 Privacy Event: The Digital Collection of Personal Information from Consumers and Citizens

In Washington D.C. on Tuesday, October 11, privacy and civil liberties experts will convene to discuss how the digital collection of personal information harms consumers and citizens. Every day, companies amass information about consumers via online tracking, digital devices, and public records. These practices are largely unregulated, but have serious consequences for consumers and society.

The panel will be from 8:45 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Watch LIVE online at http://www.visualwebcaster.com/ProtectingConsumerPrivacyOnline.

The event is sponsored by the ACLU, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Consumer Watchdog, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, US PIRG and World Privacy Forum.

View and Share our NEW VIDEO on Jobseeker Rights

We are excited to announce that our video highlighting jobseeker rights and background checks is ready to view and share! 

Watch the video to find out what’s keeping Taylor Thomas from getting hired. Learn your rights about employment background checks, and spread the word! Although Taylor is a fictional character, the situation dramatized on the six-minute video is similar to many complaints we have received from individuals who have contacted our hotline with questions and complaints about background check errors.

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