Congress Questions Data Brokers About Privacy

A group of lawmakers are questioning nearly two dozen data brokers about their privacy practices, including whether they collect and transfer consumers' sensitive health or location data.

“American privacy concerns in the data broker industry are not new, and existing laws do not sufficiently protect Americans’ data from misuse,” 10 lawmakers including Energy and Commerce committee chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) and ranking member Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-New Jersey) said in letters sent to the heads of Acxiom, Equifax, Kochava, LiveRamp and 18 other companies.

The lawmakers pose a long list of questions regarding the type of information data brokers amass and sell -- including whether they gather data about health, locations, purchase history, or app usage.

Several other questions focus on whether the companies collect data from users under 18, and whether the companies attempt to prevent Americans' data from being shared with China or other “foreign adversaries.”

“Americans are often unaware when third parties have purchased, collected, aggregated, licensed, sold, or otherwise shared their sensitive information,” the lawmakers write.

They cite the Federal Trade Commission's recent enforcement action against the therapy app BetterHelp as “one example of how companies have abused their users’ data for their own commercial benefit.”

BetterHelp recently agreed to pay $7.8 million for allegedly sharing users' sensitive information.

The Congress members add that enacting a national privacy law is a “top priority” for the committee.

“Americans do not have control over whether and where their personal data is sold and shared; they have no guaranteed way to access, delete, or correct their data; and they have no ability to stop the unchecked collection of their sensitive personal information,” they write.

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