Personally Identifiable Information Online
It's no secret that I hate spam. I hate the fact that spamvertisers and spammers take advantage of the cost-free nature of sending email to deliver often unwanted, misleading and/or highly offensive messages to your inbox. See my “Why Spam Sucks” page.
What about online "personal information brokers"?
But spam isn't the not the only abusive marketing tactic out there on the Internet. I also hate online "personal information brokers." These companies make a business out of selling and marketing your personal information online, for their profit, without ever asking for your permission to do so. These companies, like Spokeo and Intelius (and others), make unauthorized profiles out of your personal information, which may include your age, telephone number, current and former addresses, relatives, neighbors, hobbies, interests, pictures, income, and email address. They then sell this information to anyone with a credit card who wants to buy it.
These personal information brokers have no regard whatsoever for your privacy, or whether selling the information online will place you at risk of identity theft, stalking, or even – gasp! – spamming. And if they're selling incorrect information, good luck trying to get them to change it! Why should they care, the only important thing is their profit, right?
These companies don’t know you, have never done business with you, and yet think they're entitled to profit from your personally identifiable information that you never gave them permission to sell. At a minimum, I think these companies should have to get your permission before selling your information online. If you want people to be able to find you on the internet, that should be your choice, not theirs. And if they're profiting from your information, shouldn't you be entitled to some of that money?
If you are as offended by these personal information brokers as I am, and if you know these companies have sold your personal information, visit my friends over at the law firm of Keller Grover, in San Francisco. I have been doing some work with them – some spam-related and some not – and we're conducting an investigation into whether these companies are violating your California privacy rights. Click here to see the details of their investigation.
© 2002-present, Daniel Balsam