WASHINGTON, May 28, 2014 - The National Journal reported that the Federal Trade Commission released a report charging the data brokerage industry with collecting "troves" of information on nearly all American consumers. The agency urged Congress to push for more transparency.
Believing that an invasive collection of personal data could harm consumers, the FTC recommended a centralized portal permitting consumers to learn about data brokers' data collection practices.
“Most consumers have never heard of the data-broker industry, let alone the names of the largest data brokers,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said, PC World reported. “The industry suffers from a fundamental lack of transparency.”
PC World also reported that the FTC's 110-page report described an extensive collection and aggregation of online data with offline sources, including consumer buying data, social media activity, warranty registrations, magazine subscriptions and religious and political affiliation.
Data brokerage firms should be required to obtain consent from consumers before collecting information, the report suggested.
"We can now say definitively that data brokers are getting the information about us from the things we buy on a debit or credit card—no loyalty program is required," said Pam Dixon, executive director of the privacy advocacy group World Privacy Forum, according to The Wall Street Journal.
According to Tech Crunch, Director of Center for Digital Democracy Jeffrey Chester said that the Commission's calls for greater transparency and consumer control are not enough.
"The real problem is that data brokers - including Google and Facebook - have embraced a business model designed to collect and use everything about us and our friends - 24/7," Chester said. "Legislation is required to help stem the tide of business practices purposefully deigned to make a mockery out of the idea of privacy for Americans."
In other news, education groups including the American Library Association, the National Education Association and the National Rural Education Association have written a formal letter to the Federal Communications Commission calling for a permanent E-Rate annual funding cap increase.
The annual demand for E-Rate funding is "routinely twice the current cap, now set at approximately $2.41 billion," the letter states. It adds that most of this current funding is spent on telecommunications and internet access services (called Priority I services), and that schools cannot afford internal connections requests (called Priority II services).
"If the Commission is serious about ensuring that all schools and libraries have sufficient high-capacity bandwidth - to make use of the digital tools, content, services and assessments - we cannot wait until some indeterminate future date for additional E-Rate support," the letter read. "The Commission must take up the funding question in its first order on E-Rate."
The E-Rate program currently funds 14,000 public school districts, 100,000 public schools, 31,000 private schools and 16, 415 public libraries.