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Do You Really Think Your Personal Information is Private?

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As I mentioned yesterday, Consumer Reports seems to take a unique approach by having their employees go “under cover” to evaluate products and sometimes investigate companies. In their latest issue, Consumer Reports tackles data brokers, such as ChoicePoint, LexisNexis and Acxiom.

Here’s what their three-month investigation revealed:

* Current federal laws do not adequately safeguard sensitive information which can include Social Security numbers, phone numbers, and credit card numbers.
* There is no way an individual can find out exactly what data collectors are telling others; and the accuracy of that data is rarely verified.

What pieces of personal data are sold? This is more than your credit history. Your consumer habits (shopping history), your prescription drugs, your political party and your sexual orientation are available in these collections, sold to anyone who will pay, including “crooks,” according to Consumer Reports.

During the course of the investigation, employees asked the companies to receive their own files. They were given incomplete and inaccurate information in return.

The federal government is a frequent customer of these data services, but you’ll never be able to find detailed about the data the government might have purchased about you.

Here’s the full report about data mining and data brokers from Consumer Reports, which originalted from ChoicePoint’s announcement last year that it inadvertently sold information about 165,000 people to a bunch of criminals. Don’t forget that a good percentage — probably almost all — of those 165,000 people didn’t even know that ChoicePoint kept any of their personal information.

Updated August 9, 2011 and originally published September 5, 2006. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

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