A Federal Trade Commission order for commercial data miners to disclose information about how they obtain and use consumers' information likely will expose a dark market in health-related information, a leading privacy advocate says.
As laid out in a 15-page disclosure order, the FTC seeks details about "the nature and sources of the consumer information the data brokers collect; how they use, maintain and disseminate the information; and the extent to which the data brokers allow consumers to access and correct their information or to opt out of having their personal information sold," according to an FTC news release. The FTC will use information gathered in response to the request "to make recommendations on whether and how the data broker industry could improve its privacy practices."
This under-the-radar health information market is "where the Wild West is," said Pam Dixon, founder of the San Diego-based not-for-profit World Privacy Forum. "It's completely unregulated, and that's where the real risk to consumers is today. People with diseases and ailments and conditions, mental illness, obesity, sometimes specific medical diagnosis are in these lists" sold by data brokers, she said.