Facebook’s Data Collectors Know Far More About You Than You Think

Senior Contributor


One of the points worth bringing up about PRISM and government spying is that, under the law, the government can really just subcontract out that crap. Same invasion of privacy, same result, but worse, because any jackass can buy a marketing database. And it turns out marketing databases are more… detailed than you might think.

As in, data brokers might actually be breaking the law, and are certainly crossing ethical lines. Here’s a good summary of the problem, courtesy of Motherboard:

…there’s no check on whether people’s marketing profiles are being used legitimately. Rockefeller wants to make sure our data isn’t being used for things like employment screening and discriminatory pricing, or being sold to fraudsters and predators. In fact, the report revealed that the large data broker firm Experian has had probable criminals as customers.

If Experian sounds familiar, it should: They’re one of three credit bureaus used to determine your credit score. Nice to know they’re so reliable.

It gets worse. As you go through the report (link goes to PDF download), you quickly find all sorts of cringe-inducing tidbits. For example, if you want a list of HIV/AIDS sufferers? No problem! Sexual assault survivors? All yours, buddy! Oh, and just to make things worse, some of these companies are teaming up with other data brokers, like Facebook.

Just to top it off, when these guys were asked to fork over how they got this information, they refused. While it’s unlikely they’re directly violating any laws to gather information about you, it’s safe to assume that they wouldn’t be clamming up if it were going to make them look good. At a guess, they’re using behavioral algorithms to draw conclusions; that is, people with HIV/AIDS tend to buy these items, go to these places, and join these Facebook groups.

Needless to say, there is some actual concern in Washington, and legislation seems to be on the way. But for now, it’s probably safe to assume these guys know everything there is to know, if it’s in a record they can buy.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)

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