The Federal Trade Commission, in a report (PDF) published on Tuesday, describes the industry of data collection as pervasive, mysterious, and vulnerable to errors and breaches. Data brokers have collected a breathtaking amount of information about people, which they use to sell other businesses a variety of products related to marketing, fraud detection, and other services. The FTC is pushing Congress for legislation that would make it easier for people to find out what data brokers know and to get them to fix any errors—but doesn’t suggest slowing down the collection or use of this kind of data.
The report is based on data collected from nine companies: Acxiom, CoreLogic, Datalogix, EBureau, ID Analytics, Intelius, PeekYou, Rapleaf, and Recorded Future. These data brokers were compelled to share information with the commission in December 2012. According to the FTC, the companies have done a great job of finding data to crunch. One has information on 1.4 billion consumer transactions; another adds 3 billion new records to its databases each month. While the report doesn’t address credit scores, the framework of the debate is much the same.