Anyone snap a photo of your license plate lately?
The power of data helps Facebook find our friends and Netflix choose our movies but, as recent reports make clear, there’s also a looming dark side to the growing consumer data economy…
A Connecticut data broker called “Statlistics” advertises lists of gay and lesbian adults and “Response Solutions” — people suffering from bipolar disorder.
“Paramount Lists”…in Erie, Pa. offers lists of people with alcohol, sexual and gambling addictions and people desperate to get out of debt.
A Chicago company, “Exact Data,” is brokering the names of people who had a sexually transmitted disease, as well as lists of people who have purchased adult material and sex toys.
Meanwhile, a new investigation into license plate scanning describes how enterprising individuals are strapping cameras in order to troll parking lots for cars to repossess. In doing so, the camera-equipped cars hoover up every license plate they see, while adding time and location data; the drivers then relay this data to brokers like Digital Recognition Network of Texas, which claims to collect plate scans of 40 percent of all US vehicles annually.
The scope of this private data collection is all the more remarkable since the private companies that collect it are not subject to the obligations to delete records that are imposed on many government and law enforcement agencies…
Right now, the Federal Trade Commission is conducting an investigation of nine major brokers — Acxiom, Corelogic, Datalogix, eBureau, ID Analytics, Intelius, Peekyou, Rapleaf, and Recorded Future – to see how they are using consumer information.
After all, we live in the land of the free. If individuals – or corporations – were inclined to invade our property for one or another phony reason, illegitimate rationale, foolish premise, we can always count on the government to defend our rights.