StopDataMining.me is the central source for consumers to learn what kinds of information data brokers have about them and how to exercise their opt-out choices. The mission of StopDataMining.me is to serve as the “Do Not Call” list for data broker companies.
To the extent data brokers currently offer consumers choices about their data, the choices are largely invisible and incomplete. 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!
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 2014, a second Federal Trade Commission report, “Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability”, recommends that Congress consider legislation requiring data brokers to give consumers (1) meaningful information about which data brokers may have their data; and (2) meaningful information about where they can access their data and how they can exercise any opt-out rights that data brokers may already provide.
“Citizens don’t know what of our personal information is on file or how it is being used,” Julie Brill, a member of the Federal Trade Commission, wrote in an op-ed article in The Washington Post in August 2013, asking data brokers to make their practices more transparent. She added: “This frames the fundamental challenge to consumer privacy in the online marketplace: our loss of control over our most private and sensitive information.”
Unlike consumer reporting agencies, which are required by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act to show consumers free copies of their credit reports every 12 months and let them correct errors, information resellers (i.e., data brokers, data mining companies, and direct marketers) aren’t required to share marketing data with consumers and allow corrections. But some legislators and regulators believe that they should be.
To demonstrate the ease of transparency, StopDataMining.me is a functioning example of the Federal Trade Commission’s “centralized website” where data brokers can (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.