The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Business

June 9, 2014

The Color of Money: Big Data is watching you

I'm a glass-half-empty person.

     I say this as a way to express my feelings about a report released by the Federal Trade Commission on data brokers, companies that collect and sell consumer information.

     Whenever I've been searching for a product online, I often see pop-up ads later, as I'm moving from one Internet site to another, pitching the same item or something similar. Frankly, it's creepy. But, here's the glass-half-empty part. I've accepted that much of the details of my retail life are being snatched and sold.

               I'm being profiled constantly and I rarely know what's in the files and how my information is packaged and brokered.

     "For decades, policymakers have expressed concerns about the lack of transparency of companies that buy and sell consumer data without direct consumer interaction," the FTC says.

      It was the lack of transparency surrounding credit information that led to the enactment of the Fair Credit Reporting Act in 1970.

     The FTC took an in-depth look at nine data brokers who collect information -- online and off -- to verify people's identity, detect fraud and to market products. So, it's an industry that knows a lot about your personal business.

     Consider this from the report. One broker's database has information on 1.4 billion consumer transactions. Another's store of information covers $1 trillion in consumer transactions. One broker adds 3 billion new records each month to its databases.

     Before you get completely outraged about this, there are some benefits to the collection of all your data. Knowing your patterns can help prevent companies from being duped by crooks pretending to be you. However, as many people have discovered, there are also many downsides to the storing of your data. Consider the following, according to the FTC:

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