When it comes to the Internet, your eyeballs are worth more than you know. Online advertising is a massive multi-billion dollar industry and the companies dominating the industry — Google and Facebook, for example — are the companies in possession of the most private data. This data is used to target ads at consumers based on their history and preferences, and the better a company can target ads, the more it can charge advertisers to display those ads.
It looks like the Federal Trade Commission is finally starting to realize that some companies go too far when collecting data and building a profile of Internet users to be sold to marketers, and consumers deserve to have more control over how they are tracked online.
The FTC released a new report this week titled “Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability,” in which the paper’s five authors say that consumers don’t know enough about how companies collect and use information about their personal browsing habits.
“In today’s economy, Big Data is big business. Data brokers—companies that collect consumers’ personal information and resell or share that information with others—are important participants in this Big Data economy,” the FTC said in its report.
The report continues, “These data brokers collect personal information about consumers from a wide range of sources and provide it for a variety of purposes, including verifying an individual’s identity, marketing products, and detecting fraud. Because these companies generally never interact with consumers, consumers are often unaware of their existence, much less the variety of practices in which they engage.”
The Commission recommends that Congress put in place a set of regulations that give consumers greater control over what private information companies gather. The report also says users should have more control over how that private data is used.
Companies should be required to notify consumers when information pertaining to their browsing habits is shared, according to the Commission’s recommendation, and consumers should also be able to opt out of data collection all together.
The full report is linked below in our source section.