“Data Brokers: A Call For Transparency and Accountability” by the Federal Trade Commission

On May 27, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a report titled, “Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability”. In the report, the FTC concludes that data brokers operate with a fundamental lack of transparency. In additiona, the FTC recommends that Congress enact legislation to make data broker practices more visible to consumers and to give consumers greater control over the immense amounts of personal information about them collected and shared by data brokers.

The report, “Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability” is the result of a study of nine data brokers, representing a cross-section of the industry, undertaken by the FTC to shed light on the data broker industry. Data brokers obtain and share vast amounts of consumer information, typically behind the scenes, without consumer knowledge. Data brokers sell this information for marketing campaigns and fraud prevention, among other purposes. Although consumers benefit from data broker practices which, for example, help enable consumers to find and enjoy the products and services they prefer, data broker practices also raise privacy concerns.

“The extent of consumer profiling today means that data brokers often know as much – or even more – about us than our family and friends, including our online and in-store purchases, our political and religious affiliations, our income and socioeconomic status, and more,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “It’s time to bring transparency and accountability to bear on this industry on behalf of consumers, many of whom are unaware that data brokers even exist.”

The report finds that data brokers collect and store billions of data elements covering nearly every U.S. consumer. Just one of the data brokers studied holds information on more than 1.4 billion consumer transactions and 700 billion data elements and another adds more than 3 billion new data points to its database each month. Continue Reading →

StopDataMining.me is Featured on Lifehacker.com

Here at StopDataMining.me, we’ve been working hard to build tools that help consumers control the monetization of their private information. And now we’ve received coverage from the editors at Lifehacker.com!

In “The Top 50 Companies that Mine and Sell Your Data (and How to Opt Out)”, Lifehacker.com author Melanie Pinola compliments our efforts to build a central “data mining opt-out” resource for consumers, writing,

“We all know that our personal data is very valuable to marketers and other agencies—and that it’s collected and sold by data brokers. StopDataMining.me is a master list of opt-out links to stop these data brokers from collecting information about your online and offline activities.

The list is comprehensive. Hit up StopDataMining.me to get your personal information removed from these data resellers.”

StopDataMining.me is a centralized online portal for data brokers to (1) identify themselves to consumers and describe how they collect and use consumer data and (2) detail the access rights and other choices they provide with respect to the consumer data they maintain.

The Federal Trade Commission report “Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability” discovered that data broker companies collect and store billions of data elements covering nearly every U.S. consumer. For example, a single data broker company, Acxiom, holds information on more than 1.4 billion consumer transactions and 700 billion data elements. In addition, Acxiom adds more than 3 billion new data points to its database each month.

“The extent of consumer profiling today means that data brokers often know as much – or even more – about us than our family and friends, including our online and in-store purchases, our political and religious affiliations, our income and socioeconomic status, and more,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “It’s time to bring transparency and accountability to bear on this industry on behalf of consumers, many of whom are unaware that data brokers even exist.” To the extent data brokers currently offer consumers choices about their data, the choices are largely invisible and incomplete. Continue Reading →

Data Broker Acxiom Offers Consumers a Peek Behind the Curtain

Acxiom, one of the most secretive and prolific collectors of consumer information, is embarking on a novel public relations strategy: openness. On September 4, 2013, it plans to unveil a free Web site where United States consumers can view some of the information the company has collected about them.

With about $1.1 billion in revenue in its 2013 fiscal year, Acxiom is a leading player in an industry called data brokerage. The company collects, stores, analyzes and sells consumer data with the aim of helping its clients — including well-known banks, credit card issuers, insurance companies, department stores and carmakers — tailor marketing to their most valuable current customers or identify new customers.

The data on the site, called AbouttheData.com, includes biographical facts, like education level, marital status and number of children in a household; homeownership status, including mortgage amount and property size; vehicle details, like the make, model and year; and economic data, like whether a household member is an active investor with a portfolio greater than $150,000. Also available will be the consumer’s recent purchase categories, like plus-size clothing or sports products; and household interests like golf, dogs, text-messaging, cholesterol-related products or charities.

Each entry comes with an icon that visitors can click to learn about the sources behind the data — whether self-reported consumer surveys, warranty registrations or public records like voter files. The program also lets people correct or suppress individual data elements, or to opt out entirely of having Acxiom collect and store marketing data about them. Visitors who log in may be surprised at the volume of information that may be available and the detailed picture it can give of their personal lives.

Even so, Aboutthedata.com is a self-serving endeavor, promoting Acxiom’s take on data-powered marketing to consumers. Although the site shows visitors a few facts that some might consider sensitive, like race and ethnicity, it initially omits intimate references — like “gambling,” “senior needs,” “smoker in the household” and “adult with wealthy parent” — that Acxiom markets to corporate clients but that might discomfit consumers if they knew they were for sale. (Acxiom said that the site includes the “core” facts it has collected about consumers, but that it might add “derived” data, like propensity for gambling, at a later date.)

This kind of anodyne presentation of data-mining, says Joseph Turow, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, could prompt people to collude in their own surveillance by perfecting their profiles. That would improve the quality and resale value of the data for Acxiom, he says, perhaps to consumers’ detriment.

Continue Reading →

Master List of Data Broker Opt Out Links

Data brokers have pioneered advanced techniques to collect and collate information about consumers’ offline, online and mobile behavior. But they have been slow to develop innovative ways for consumers to gain access to the information that companies obtain, share and sell about them for marketing purposes. Now federal regulators are pressuring data brokers to operate more transparently.

In 2012, a report by the Federal Trade Commission recommended that the industry set up a public Web portal that would display the names and contact information of every data broker doing business in the United States, as well as describe consumers’ data access rights and other choices. But, for years the data brokers have been too busy to build a centralized Web portal for consumers. So, we decided to help them out and StopDataMining.me was born!

Now tracking 50 data broker companies.

CategoryCompany NameOpt-Out LinkMethodNotes
CategoryCompany NameOpt-Out LinkMethodNotes
TOP 10Acxiom Corporation (NSDQ:AXCM)https://isapps.acxiom.com/optout/optout.aspxOnline Form / Mail / TelephoneComplete an Opt-Out request online (requires a valid email address). Telephone at 1-877-774-2094, and select Path 5.
TOP 10DataLogix Holdings, Inc.https://www.datalogix.com/privacy/#opt-out-landingOnline FormFill out online form.
TOP 10Epsilon Data Management, LLChttp://www.epsilon.com/consumer-preference-centerEmail / Telephone / MailEmail optout@epsilon.com. Call 1-888-780-3869. Mail to "Epsilon, P.O. Box 1478, Broomfield, CO 80036."
TOP 10Equifax, Inc. (NYSE:EFX)https://help.equifax.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2/noIntercept/1/kw/prescreenOnline Form / Mail / TelephoneComplete online form at www.optoutprescreen.com. Call toll free at 1-888-5-OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688). Mail to "Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 740123, Atlanta, GA 30374-0123."
TOP 10Experian plc (LON:EXPN)http://www.experian.com/privacy/opting_out_preapproved_offers.htmlOnline Form / Mail / TelephoneComplete online form at www.optoutprescreen.com. Call toll free at 1-888-5-OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688). Mail to "Experian, Opt Out, P.O. Box 919, Allen, TX 75013."
TOP 10Fair Isaac Corporation (NYSE:FICO)http://www.myfico.com/policy/privacypolicy.aspxTelephone / EmailCall 1-888-FICO-EDM (1-888-342-6336). Email request to SharingOptOut@FICO.com.
TOP 10Harte-Hanks, Inc. (NYSE:HHS)http://www.harte-hanks.com/page/privacypolicy#a5Email / Telephone / MailEmail removal request to PSAC@harte-hanks.com. Call 512-434-1100. Mail to "Harte-Hanks, Inc., Attention: Corporate Privacy Manager, 2800 Wells Branch Parkway, Austin, TX 78728 USA."
TOP 10Intelius, Inc.https://www.intelius.com/optout.phpOnline Form / Mail / TelephoneComplete online form. Call 425-974-6194. Mail to "Intelius Consumer Affairs, P.O. Box 4145, Bellevue, WA 98009-4145."
TOP 10LexisNexis Grouphttp://www.lexisnexis.com/privacy/for-consumers/opt-out-of-lexisnexis.aspxOnline Form / MailLook up your information. Opt-out only in certain conditions.
TOP 10TransUnion Corp.http://www.transunion.com/corporate/business/datareporting/support/opt-out.pageOnline Form / Mail / TelephoneComplete online form at www.optoutprescreen.com. Call toll free at 1-888-5-OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688). Mail to "TransUnion, Name Removal Option, P.O. Box 505, Woodlyn, PA 19094."
Data BrokersAmeridexhttp://ameridex.com/newp.phpOnline FormFill out online form.
Data BrokersBeenVerifiedhttp://www.beenverified.com/faqEmailLook up your information. Email information requested.
Data BrokersEmail Finderhttp://www.emailfinder.com/EFC.aspx?_act=OptoutOnline Form / MailLook up your information. Fill out online form.
Data BrokersInfoPay EmailTracerhttp://www.emailtracer.com/tos.phpFax / MailLook up your information. Opt-out only in certain conditions.
Data BrokersInnovis, Inc.https://www.innovis.com/InnovisWeb/pers_lc_opt_out.htmlOnline Form / Mail / TelephoneComplete online form at www.optoutprescreen.com. Call toll free at 1-888-5-OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688). Mail to "Innovis Consumer Assistance, P.O. Box 495, Pittsburgh, PA 15230-0495."
Data BrokersLocatePeople.orghttp://www.locatepeople.org/index.php?xpath=privacyFax / MailLook up your information. Opt-out only in certain conditions.
Data BrokersLocatePLUShttps://www.locateplus.com/privacy.aspMailPay $25. Mail information requested.
Data BrokersMelissaData.comhttp://www.people-finders.ws/privacy.aspx?popup=trueMailLook up your information. Mail information requested.
Data BrokersMeredith Corporationhttp://www.meredith.com/privacy.html#howwediscloseMailMail request to "Meredith Corporation, Opt-Out Postal, Attn: Circulation, 1716, Locust Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50309."
Data BrokersMerlin Information Serviceshttps://www.merlindata.com/privacystatement.asp#OptEmail / MailEmail or fax information requested.
Data BrokersMerkle, Inc.http://www.merkleinc.com/privacyImpossible"Merkle does not collect data directly from consumers except for information collected as part of our clients' marketing programs." (http://www.merkleinc.com/who-we-are-customer-relationship-marketing-agency/our-clients)
Data BrokersPeopleFinders.comhttp://www.peoplefinders.com/privacy.aspxMailLook up your information. Mail information requested.
Data BrokersPeoplelookup.comhttp://www.peoplelookup.com/privacy.phpFaxLook up your information. Fax information requested.
Data BrokersPeopleSearchNow.comhttp://www.peoplesearchnow.com/help/topic.aspx?id=15MailLook up your information. Mail information requested.
Data BrokersPeople Search Prohttp://www.peoplesearchpro.com/PSP.aspx?_act=optoutOnline FormLook up your information. Fill out online form.
Data BrokersPhone Detectivehttp://www.phonedetective.com/PD.aspx?_act=OptOutOnline FormLook up your information. Fill out online form.
Data BrokersPrivateEyehttp://www.privateeye.com/Help/default.aspx?from=hys0359866156&piid=03#RemoveFromRecordsMailLook up your information. Mail information requested.
Data BrokersPublicBackgroundChecks.comhttp://www.publicbackgroundchecks.com/privacypolicy.aspxMailLook up your information. Mail information requested.
Data BrokersPublicRecordsNOWhttp://www.publicrecordsnow.com/?from=hys0359866907&piid=46MailLook up your information. Mail information requested.
Data BrokersUSA People Searchhttp://www.usa-people-search.com/help.aspx#p3MailLook up your information. Mail information requested.
Data BrokersUS Search.comhttp://www.ussearch.com/consumer/ala/landing.do?did=590Fax / MailLook up your information. Fax or mail information requested.
Data BrokersVeromi.nethttp://www.veromi.net/privacy.aspxMailLook up your information. Mail information requested.
Data BrokersWestlaw (Thompson Reuters Corp. NYSE:TRI)http://west.thomson.com/pdf/privacy/opt_out_form.pdfMailLook up your information. Opt-out only in certain conditions.
Data BrokersZABA Inc.http://www.zabasearch.com/block_records/FaxLook up your information. Fax information requested.
Direct MarketersAbacus Cooperativehttp://www.abacusoptout.com/Email / Mail / TelephoneEmail, mail, or telephone information requested.
Direct MarketersAristotle / Voter Lists Onlinehttp://www.aristotle.com/content/view/31/152/EmailEmail information requested.
Direct MarketersChoicePoint Precision Marketinghttp://www.privacyatchoicepoint.com/optout_ext.htmlOnline FormFill out online form.
Direct MarketersCox Target Media (Valpak)http://www.coxtarget.com/mailsuppression/s/DisplayMailSuppressionFormOnline FormFill out online form.
Direct MarketersDirectMail.comhttp://www.directmail.com/directory/mail_preference/Online FormFill out online form.
Direct MarketersDirect Marketing Association (DMA) - Central Mail Opt-Outhttps://www.dmachoice.org/dma/member/regist.actionOnline FormRegister. Fill out information.
Direct MarketersDun & Bradstreet Corp. (NYSE:DNB)http://www.dnb.com/US/home/privacy_policy/index.htmlEmail / TelephoneEmail or telephone information requested.
Direct MarketersDex Media (Phonebooks)http://green.dexknows.com/DexGreen/selectDexAction.doOnline Form / TelephoneFill out online form. Call 1-866-606-9339.
Direct MarketersHaines Criss+Crosshttp://www.haines.com/privacy1.htmEmail / MailEmail or mail information requested.
Direct MarketersInfogroup Inc.http://www.infousa.com/StaticPage/PrivacyPolicyInfo.htmEmail / MailEmail or mail information requested.
Direct MarketersMoney Mailerhttp://www.moneymailerdirect.com/PrivacyPolicy.aspxEmail / Mail/ TelephoneEmail, mail, or telephone information requested.
Direct MarketersPublishers Clearing Househttp://www.pch.com/infocenter/privacypolicy.shtml?cm_re=PCH.com-_-TopShell-_-Dec08Privacy#12Email / MailEmail or mail information requested.
Direct MarketersReader's Digesthttp://www.rd.com/privacy-policy/article10660.html#optingMailMail information requested.
Direct MarketersSuarez Corporation Industrieshttp://www.suarez.com/privacy-policy/Email / Mail / TelephoneEmail, mail, or telephone information requested.
Direct MarketersValassis Communications, Inc. (NYSE:VCI)http://www.valassis.com/1024/Contact/MailingListRemoval.aspxEmail / Mail / TelephoneEmail, mail, or telephone information requested.
TelemarketersNational Do Not Call Registryhttps://www.donotcall.gov/register/reg.aspxOnline FormFill out online form.