As the Federal Trade Commission, (“FTC”), video depicted above reveals, data brokers (a.k.a. “information brokers”) and some other private sector businesses sell your highly personal information.  The video says for example, your location, interests, prescriptions and medical history may all be “shared or sold.”  Pages 22, 24, 34 & Appendix B-5 of a May 2014 FTC report similarly indicate that data brokers can search for your financial information including: where and when you open a bank account; estimated household income; the assets you own; loan history; credit card use and tax return transcripts.

The video shows how private sector businesses can collect your personal information through “mobile, social media, free internet search and more.”   A March 9, 2014 60 Minutes episode entitled “The Data Brokers” sheds light on this situation.  The 60 Minutes episode explains your computer’s browsers and your mobile devices permit businesses like data brokers to follow your click stream.  Stated differently, private sector businesses are able to employ browsers and mobile devices to mine data and harvest your personal information.

According to the 60 Minutes episode, the end result is that people “are making dossiers…about individuals” and “[t]he largest data broker is Acxiom, a marketing giant that brags it has, on average, 1,500 pieces of information on more than 200 million Americans.”  If you are not already convinced that the private sector’s collection of your personal information violates your privacy, perhaps Senator Richard M. Burr’s recent speech will convince you.  As the transcript available here demonstrates, the Senator suggested during his speech last week that your private sector grocery store collects more information about you than the National Security Agency does.

Video courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams