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Why the Consumer Index Exists

In 2012 the Federal FTC began a two year long investigation into what the FTC correctly coined Data Brokers. Data Brokers are Data brokers are—“companies that collect consumers’ personal information and resell or share that information with others—are important participants in this Big Data economy,” as defined by the Executive Summery, of the 110 page long report, released in 2014, by the FTC, titled “Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability.”

The center piece of investigation and eye opening report (Available for download in full, here on the A.C.E. website, free of charge, for interested consumers.) which began in December 2012, was when the Commission initiated a study of data broker practices. It issued identical Orders to File Special Reports (“Orders”) under section 6(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act 5 to nine data brokers seeking information about their data collection and use practices, as well as any tools provided to consumers to control these practices. Appendix A is a copy of the text of the Orders that the Commission issued to the data brokers.

The nine data brokers that received the Orders are Acxiom, Corelogic, Datalogix, eBureau, ID Analytics, Intelius, PeekYou, Rapleaf, and Recorded Future (A link to each Data Brokers main website, as well as any “Consumer opt-out,” “Consumer Correction,” or “Consumer Information Collection Sharing” information, forms, or procedures can be found in the “Knowledge is Power”section of this website.). The Orders sent by the FTC to these nine Data Brokers, requested detailed information regarding the data brokers’ practices, including the nature and sources of consumer data they collect; how they use, maintain, and disseminate the data; and the extent to which the data brokers allow consumers to access and correct data about them or to opt out of having their personal information sold or shared.

A. Where data brokers get consumers information some of it.

In part due to these developments, the market for personal information, already a multi- billion dollar industry, is growing larger and more diverse.(15) Long-time members of the information industry as well as newcomers are responding to the swelling demand by launching new and increasingly comprehensive personal identifying information products and marketing them to a broadening spectrum of potential customers.(16) As a result, providers of information used to locate, verify, and identify individuals have emerged as a discrete industry.(17)

B. Types and Sources of Information Available

Individual reference service databases contain information about an overwhelming proportion of the population, including children. For example, one prominent individual reference service recently promoted one of its databases as containing the names, current and former addresses, Social Security numbers, and telephone numbers of 160 million individuals.(18) The information is gathered from a wide variety of sources. It typically originates from the consumers themselves, who provide identifying information when they, for example, register to vote, apply for a driver’s license, have a new telephone connected, order a catalogue, or apply for credit.(19) Individual reference services then gather this information from public records (like real estate records), publicly available sources (like telephone directories), and from non-public sources (like credit reporting agencies). Alternatively, look-up services may obtain the information from “information vendors,” entities that gather data from various sources and either resell it or allow customers to access databases maintained by the information vendors themselves (known as “gateway access”).(20) The types of information gleaned from these various sources overlap a great deal. For example, an individual’s mailing address may be reflected in records obtained from public records, from other public sources, and from non-public sources.

C. Information from Public Records

Public records are a rich source of personal identifying information. Government entities at all levels require individuals to provide various types of information and are usually required to make such records available for public inspection.(21) These records include, but certainly are not limited to, real property records, marriage and divorce records, birth certificates, driving records, driver’s licenses, vehicle titles and registrations, civil and criminal court records, parole records, postal service change-of-address records, voter registration records, bankruptcy and lien records, incorporation records, workers’ compensation claims, political contributions records, firearms permits, occupational and recreational licenses, filings pursuant to the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), and filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).(22)

Public records may contain extensive and detailed information (e.g., race, gender, Social Security number, address, and dates of birth, marriage, and divorce).(23) Land records, for example, typically include property address and description, dates of sales, sales prices, size of mortgage amounts, and sellers’ and purchasers’ names.(24) Social Security numbers are available from the records kept by dozens of government entities, such as motor vehicle bureaus and the SEC. Dates of marriage and divorce may be gleaned from marriage and divorce certificates, respectively. Dates of birth may be available from birth certificates and voter registration records.(25) Professional license records may include name, address, type of license held, and in some cases, the date of the license-holder’s last medical examination.(26) Driver’s license records(27) make available in one place an individual’s name, address, height, weight, gender, eye color, date of birth and, in some cases, Social Security number.(28)

Certain agencies, like the SEC, make records available gratis,(29) but in general government records must be purchased for a nominal fee.(30) For example, the State of New York sells driver's license information in the form of abstracts for approximately five dollars each.(31) These abstracts can include such data as vehicle and ownership information, driver’s license records, accident reports, conviction certificates, police reports, complaints, satisfied judgment records, hearing records, and closed suspension revocation orders.(32)

Although government records are increasingly available in electronic form,(33) many still must be transcribed. Individual reference services obtain public records information either directly from the government custodian of records, or indirectly, through information vendors who transcribe it (if necessary) and resell it.(34)

This is an amazing, revolutionary search. For one flat fee, this search takes any individual’s name, or a company name, or any topic or subject, and runs it through 1,000 separate computer databases, which warehouse a collective 100 billion records. (Not million. Billion) Any and all information is returned that is found of [sic] the subject; length is unlimited. Many of the databases include Equifax, TRW, DBT, Trans Union, ABI, Dun & Bradstreet, IDS, CDB, TRW Information America, DDI, TRW Business, Metromail, national newspaper database, national magazine database, UCCs, national lien and judgment search, national bankruptcy, national federal tax liens, national collection accounts, national mortgage search, national real property and many, many more. This combined search is truly remarkable. On searches conducted to date, the average report length has been 100 pages.(51

However, the issue really is that this information is aggregated and created into a characture or likeness of the individual, which is more like the individual.

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