Jeff Sovern Publishes Op-Ed on Privacy
Business Forum: Data brokers peddle information for their own selfish interests
By Jeff Sovern
Learning what most data brokers know about us and whom they sell it to — said to be the price for free websites — is often difficult or impossible. While companies may provide privacy policies, companies that do not want consumers to realize what they disclose to others have an incentive to write their policies in a way to make it unlikely that consumers will wade through them, and many do.
Some information is already protected by federal law. For example, medical professionals are limited in what they can say about patients. But information obtained from some sources, including patients who buy products or conduct searches on the Web without realizing that information about them is being harvested, is often not covered by law. The result is that medical information that consumers believe confidential is readily available for purchase.
Lawmakers should adopt several measures to address these issues. Congress should create a single website that consumers can visit to opt out of the collection of information on their transactions.