Commentary

Expose Of Experian Sparks New Questions About Data Brokers

Revelations about the data broker Experian's unwitting assistance to identity thieves are sparking a new wave of questions by the head of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Journalist Brian Krebs recently exposed how Experian ended up selling data about consumers to an identity theft service. A company acquired by Experian in March of 2012, Court Ventures, allegedly sold the information to a man posing as a private investigator.

The news couldn't have come at a worse time for the data-broker industry, which is under scrutiny by lawmakers as well as the Federal Trade Commission.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) previously questioned data brokers about their information-gathering practices. He found their answers vague, so he followed up by asking online publishers to explain how they collect and share information about consumers.

Today, Rockefeller has some new questions for Experian. “Your company collects, maintains, and sells data on millions of American consumers. The Committee's investigation has focused to date on how companies including Experian collect and sell consumer information for marketing purposes, while the information Experian reportedly sold to identity thieves ... appears to be data Experian collects and sells for risk assessment activities,” Rockefeller writes. “However, if these recent news accounts are accurate, they raise serious questions about whether Experian as a company has appropriate practices in place for vetting its customers and sharing sensitive consumer data.”

advertisement

advertisement

Rockefeller isn't the only one asking questions. The FTC -- which has recommended new laws restricting data brokers -- also has demanded that companies explain how they compile information about consumers.

Just yesterday, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill publicly reiterated her call that new regulations are needed. “When I talk about these issues in Washington, I call on Congress to enact legislation that would require data brokers to provide notice, access, and correction rights to consumers scaled to the sensitivity and use of the data at issue,” she said in a speech delivered at the Polytechnic Institute of NYU. “Such a law should require data brokers to give consumers the ability to access their information and correct it when it is used for eligibility determinations, and the ability to opt-out of information used for marketing.

Next story loading loading..