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An information broker or data broker collects information about individuals from public records and private sources including census and change of address records, motor vehicle and driving records, user-contributed material to social networking sites ,  media and court reports, voter registration lists, consumer purchase histories, most-wanted lists and terrorist watch lists, bank card transaction records , health care authorities, and web browsing histories.
The data are aggregated to create individual profiles, often made up of thousands of individual pieces of information such as a person's age, race, gender, height, weight, marital status, religious affiliation, political affiliation, occupation, household income, net worth, home ownership status, investment habits, product preferences and health-related interests.
Brokers then sell the profiles to other organizations that use them mainly to target advertising and marketing towards specific groups, to verify a person's identity including for purposes of fraud detection, and to sell to individuals and organizations so they can research people for various reasons.
Beginning in the late twentieth century, technological developments such as the development of the internet , increasing computer processing power and declining costs of data storage made it much easier for companies to collect, analyze, store and transfer large amounts of data about individual people. This gave rise to the information broker or data broker industry. Individuals generally cannot find out what data a broker holds on them, how a broker got it, or how it is used.
Files on individuals are generally sold in lists; examples cited in testimony to the U. Congress include lists of rape victims, seniors with dementia, financially vulnerable people, people with HIV, and police officers by home address.
There are probably between and data broker companies, and about a third may provide opt-outs, with some charging over a thousand dollars for them. Data brokers collect information concerning myriad topics, ranging from the daily communications of an individual to more specialized data such as product registrations.
Credit scores were first used in the s, but did not become widely known or specifically regulated until the s. In Kelly Warnken published the first fee-based information directory, which continues to be published and has expanded to cover international concerns.
The information produced by data brokers has been criticized for enabling discrimination in pricing, services and opportunities.
For example, a May White House report found that web searches that included black-seeming first names such as Jermaine were more likely to result in ads being displayed that include the word "arrest," compared with web searches including white-seeming first names such as Geoffrey. PRC also maintains a list of information brokers data brokers, with links to their privacy policies, terms of service, and opt-out privisions. Data brokers have also faced legal charges for security breaches due to poor data security practices.
A University of California study, after requesting and analyzing information-sharing practices at 86 companies, found many operating under an opt-out model that it described as inconsistent with consumer expectations, and recommended that the California state legislature require companies to disclose their information-sharing policies using clear, unambiguous language, and consider creating a centralized, user-friendly method for consumers to opt out of information-sharing.
In , the U. Federal Trade Commission had recommended the U. Congress develop legislation enabling consumers to see the information that data brokers hold about them, a recommendation it renewed in subsequent reports in and Government Accountability Office also called for Congress to consider legislation. The Data Accountability and Trust Act contained a number of requirements for auditing and verification of accuracy of data held by information brokers, and additional measures in the case of a security breach.
The bill also gave identified individuals the means and opportunity to review and correct the data held that related to them. It was revived by the th Congress in as H. The bill was first introduced by Rep. In fiction , information brokers usually find data for a story's main character s. Fictional information brokers can be of varying importance and have varying methods.
For example, a hacker can be an information broker, though they may be simply transferring whatever information they find to the main character s. Other brokers may have memorized data and tell the main character s covertly.
Also, a fee is not always involved. The information broker may have an alliance with the main character s or be one themselves. Examples of information brokers in contemporary fiction would be Edward G. A few of the characters in Neil Stephenson 's novel Snow Crash find work selling data as "stringers" for the Central Intelligence Corporation.
Information broker characters play a prominent role in stories published by DC Comics. The character trope is best exemplified by the superhero Oracle , but the trope is later used with the characters Calculator , Proxy , Chloe Sullivan , and Felicity Smoak as well. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
This article is about data brokers. For a degreed librarian who performs information research, also known as an independent information professional, information consultant, information specialist, Internet researcher, or Internet librarian, see information professional. Retrieved 17 August Government of the United States. Retrieved 13 August Executive Office of the President.
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