So you think Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) or Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) know the most about US consumers? While they may be the collectors of information, it is really the aggregators who know all – and sell your consumer information for a price without obtaining consent. And it’s all legal.
When marketers send direct mail or make unsolicited phone calls to your home, they could be targeting a “Pennywise Mortgagee,” a “Biker/Hell’s Angels” category or someone with a “New Age/Organic Lifestyle.” These are among the many lifestyle categories that make up the new demographic listings offered by data aggregators, a new report from Quartz reveals.
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FTC urges Congress to protect consumer privacy
A Federal Trade Communication (FTC) study titled Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability, reveals nine major data brokerage firms that compile information from a variety of sources – your credit report as well as online activity – to paint a startling picture of a user’s private life. In the report, the FTC urged Congress to require the data brokerage industry to provide more transparency to provide consumers more control over their personal information.
“The Federal Trade Commission finds that data brokers operate with a fundamental lack of transparency,” the report chastised. “The Commission recommends that Congress consider enacting legislation to make data broker practices more visible to consumers and to give consumers greater control over the immense amounts of personal information about them collected and shared by data brokers.”
The FTC seeks to shed light on the practices of data brokers who increasingly collect and sell hordes of personal information, from family ties to religious affiliations, “without consumer knowledge.”
Databrokers know as much or more about people than their family and friends
“The extent of consumer profiling today means that data brokers often know as much – or even more – about us than our family and friends, including our online and in-store purchases, our political and religious affiliations, our income and socioeconomic status, and more,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “It’s time to bring transparency and accountability to bear on this industry on behalf of consumers, many of whom are unaware that data brokers even exist.”
Are you part of the “Urban Scramble” category or the “Rural Everlasting” group?
Today’s data brokers would make the NSA proud, collecting information from extensive online sources, including social media, purchasing data, warranty registrations, magazine subscriptions and more. The report highlighted the collection of sensitive categories, such as “Urban Scramble” and “Mobile Mixers,” both of which include a high concentration of Latinos and African-Americans with low incomes. The demeaning classification of “Rural Everlasting” is a group comprised of single men and women over age 66 with “low educational attainment and low net worths.” Other areas of concern center on data collection on areas of medical topics or conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, pregnancy, and high cholesterol.
The recommendations proposed by the FTC “would go a long way to shining a much needed light on the practices of data brokers, and to providing consumers and other interested stakeholders with meaningful tools to ensure that the narratives data brokers tell about us are accurate fair, and used in appropriate ways,” FTC Commissioner Juile Brill said in a concurring statement.