May 28, 2014
Are you a financially strapped working mother who smokes? A Jewish retiree with a fondness for Caribbean cruises? Or a Spanish-speaking professional with allergies, a dog and a collection of Elvis memorabilia?
All this information and much, much more is being quietly collected, analyzed and distributed by the nation’s burgeoning data-broker industry, which uses billions of individual data points to produce detailed portraits of virtually every American consumer, the Federal Trade Commission reported Tuesday.
The FTC report provided an unusually detailed account of the system of commercial surveillance that draws on government records, shopping habits and social-media postings to help marketers hone their advertising pitches. Officials said the intimacy of these profiles would unnerve some consumers who have little ability to track what’s being collected or how it’s used — or even to correct false information. The FTC called for legislation to bring transparency to the multibillion-dollar industry and give consumers some control over how their data is used.
Data brokers’ portraits feature traditional demographics such as age, race and income, as well as political leanings, religious affiliations, Social Security numbers, gun-ownership records, favored movie genres and gambling preferences (casino or state lottery?). Interest in health issues — such as diabetes, HIV infection and depression — can be tracked as well.
This article was posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 11:23 am