Data brokers tracing you

While it may seem we are obsessed with the violations of privacy that have accompanied the exploding use of the Internet, there are real problems that have been created.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the federal government is looking into companies known as “data brokers” who sell profiles of Internet users to lenders.

The story said these companies use social media, Web searches and purchase histories to track down folks who may be having financial trouble – then sell that information to businesses as “sales leads.”

Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Edward Markey introduced a bill Wednesday requiring such companies to be transparent and accountable – and to make sure they are not using deceptive practices to gather financial data on citizens.

Additionally, the story said the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are tying to crack down on data brokers “who may skirt federal law.”

As far as we are concerned, there are some obvious ways to avoid being victimized by someone trying to collect financial information on you:

1. Don’t share stories about financial difficulties on any sort of social media.

2. Don’t respond to email solicitations or Web ads where banking or credit information is sought.

3. Do business only with companies that you have a history with – don’t give debit or credit card numbers to strangers.

Brokers will still be collecting data on you, though. The story cited the World Privacy Forum as saying there are more than 300 million U.S. consumers who have been profiled by over 4,000 data brokers.

But refraining from posting your financial records in plain sight can limit the information collected on you.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.