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USA Data’s Web Essay

1. Do data brokers such as USA Data raise privacy issues? Why or why not?

Yes, they do raise privacy issues, as they don’t verify the information they acquire on consumers. Their acceptable use policies have more to do with protecting the value of their data asset than the consumer’s privacy. The companies for the most part are unregulated which makes them susceptible to criminal behavior in the form of having their security breeched and consumer data stolen.

If you are on the Internet chances are your activity is being tracked in some form or fashion. It appears there are few data brokers that offer, “opt out” on a voluntary basis. The ones that do are often hard to maneuver, leaving the opt out option incomplete, which in turn still makes your information susceptible to being sold or shared.

To be totally honest, until reading up on this – I had no idea of the vastness of these types of warehouses of information. The fact that there is really little to no legal framework requiring these companies to offer consumers the ability to opt out or suppress their information is pretty scary!

2. If your name and other personal information were in this database, what limitations on access would you want in order to preserve your privacy? Consider the following data users: government agencies, your employer, private business firms, other individuals.

Government: I would like to think the Fourth Amendment still meant something in this country! I’m sure that our forefathers had no way of knowing how ridiculously easy it would be to gather and store information on the citizens of the United States of America. Still, the Fourth Amendment clearly states, “a search is any intrusion by the government into something in which one has a reasonable expectation of privacy.” That “something” should include the Internet and databases that collect information on citizens. There are those that would argue the government should have access as part of the USA Patriot Act in the search and seizure of potential terrorists. I feel that the exclusionary rule in the Fourth Amendment covers this type of search. Limitations on access should include any information that isn’t relevant to the safety of my fellow man. Access should therefore be limited to information that is pertinent to the conduction of business in the US, for me essentially that limits it to taxes!

Employers: Personally, I give my employer the information that I feel they need to know; otherwise they shouldn’t be accessing private personal information. I understand that it is relevant to some employers to have access to certain information, for instance school administration needs to know if someone they are considering hiring has any type of sex offenses, public transportation may need to know whether a candidate has a previous DWI, this should all be gained through appropriate sources with the candidates expressed permission. I would think with the massive amount of data collected on individuals as noted above there is a chance of erroneous information. As an employee or potential employee one should be able to limit the information shared via signed waivers. As a Duke employee who works in Finance, I agreed to allow a credit check – this makes sense as I’m working with money. I’m sure there are many other areas that require different types of access, but overall the ability to gain this information should be based on the approval of the candidate or employee.

Private Business Firms: The private business firms while not as crucial can be just as aggravating. For instance I bought a new home in July of 2013. When I placed my existing home on the market I must have gotten at least 25 offers from other realtors to sell it, just as many moving company offers, and probably double the offers from contractors and new home developers. Once the home was sold and the new one was purchased the onslaught of mail continued, everything from magazines on decorating my new home to every business imaginable offering some form of discounts to shop at their establishments. Was some of this useful? Absolutely! I took advantage of many of the discounts and coupons offered.

On the other hand when you think about it, there are those that move for reasons other than just wanting a new home. Take a person who may have been abused by a spouse or other person and is trying to make a new start. Should that information be readily available to anyone who can pay for it? I don’t think so, but I’m guessing it would be just as easy to acquire as mine was, which speaks volumes as to how this may be abused. I believe there are current requirements related to these types of cases, but who knows if they are truly followed due to the lack of government oversight in these matters. Personally, I think there should be limitations to they type of information released to private business. Perhaps instead of releasing a person’s name the database should only include addresses of new homeowners. I would prefer not to have any of my personal information released including name, marital status, exc., any information should be general in nature.

Individuals: This is pretty clear-cut. Unless the person is a danger to others, no person should have access to personal and private information on another. There are specific programs that identify those that may have criminal records, such as sex offenders. These programs should be used for that purpose and all other information should be kept private.

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