Don’t Think You Can Be Appalled Anymore?

In case you think that you’re jaded and cynical enough that you can’t be stunned into silence before, this might do it. It left my jaw agape. Data brokers will sell lists of the names of rape victims, HIV-positive people and domestic assault victims, among others.

Speaking to members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, World Privacy Forum Executive Director Pam Dixon described herself as a “moderate” when it came to data brokers, but shocking research convinced her that the industry was in need of regulation.

“The data broker industry as it is today, does not have constraints and it does not have shame,” she explained. “It will sell any information about any person regardless of sensitivity for 7.9 cents a name, which is the price of a list of rape sufferers which was recently sold.”

“Lists of rape sufferers, victims of domestic violence, police officers’ home addresses, people who suffer from genetic illnesses,” Dixon continued. “Complete with names, home addresses, ethnicity, gender and many other factors. This is what’s being sold and circulated today.”…

“I was stunned in doing my research when I found lists of people who were rape sufferers, people who were genetic disease suffers, people who were victims of domestic violence,” Dixon admitted. “What is happening is through survey instruments that are operated online and through other methods that are typically consumer generated, people will volunteer this information to websites thinking they are getting help from a website.”

“And they have no idea this information is going to be attached to, not just a cookie, but their name, their home address, their phone number.”

The chairman of the committee, Jay Rockefeller, said he was “revolted” by this revelation. That seems a proper response to me.

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Randomfactor

    Perhaps he could share the home phone numbers of the people selling the lists?

  • John Pieret

    American free enterprise at work in all its glory.

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    Sigh. I have always made my living on the bleeding edge of technology. However these days I’m feeling quite the Luddite. What has this age of unlimited information at one’s fingertips wrought? The jury is still out, but I am increasingly pessimistic. A new day, a new assault on privacy.

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    What heddle said in #3. The fact is that police reports and (in most states) the names of people with HIV are matters of public record, it is trivial to track down such particulars and compile them into lists.

  • Alverant

    Your moral outrage is just an attempt to stifle the Free Market ™ and promote socialism. The right for a company to make money is more important than your “right” to privacy.

    /snark

  • Nemo

    What I want to know is, who buys the “Rape Sufferers” list?

    Or maybe I don’t want to know.

  • http://onhandcomments.blogspot.com/ left0ver1under

    Nemo (#6) –

    What I want to know is, who buys the “Rape Sufferers” list?

    HMOs (“pre-existing conditions”).

    Insurance companies (“Is that person more likely tomake a claim?”).

    Credit agencies (“The person must be engaging in risky behaviour.”).

    Political groups (“They’ll vote for us if we support this policy!”).

    Sellers of “home security equipment”.

    Advertisers (see: Target and the angry father with the pregnant daughter).

    Churches wanting to proselytize or blame people.

    And that list came to me without stretching my imagination. Some have no conscience at all and see everyone else as a target, a walking ATM or a marketing opportunity, not as human beings.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    Perhaps one should think about gathering information about those selling such lists and then making a mistake and entering them into “Sexual predators” lists. Who, me? Fuck no. I can’t program a DVR. I know, I know, it’s terrible of me to even THINK such a thing, fuck it, I can live with myself.

  • Craig Pennington

    @Nemo, perhaps some kindly data broker will sell you that information.

  • David C Brayton

    I heard a story on the radio about this. Generally, I’m not too concerned about public data being aggregated. If someone buys a pregnancy test kit and then gets a coupon in the mail for diapers because they swiped their ‘loyal shopper’ card, well, that was to be expected.

    But this was appalling. What kind of person assembles a list of rape victims in the first place?

    On the other hand, I don’t see any way to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable data aggregation. Assuming the data is either a public record or willingly disclosed, compiling it into a database is an activity protected by the First Amendment (free speech).

    Can the government say that a citizen can’t write a list of crime victims? Does it matter if the intent of the author is ‘good’ or ‘capitalistic’ or just plain ‘bad’ ? Does it matter if the list is for minor crimes (vandalism) or sensitive crimes (rape) ?

  • Ichthyic

    Generally, I’m not too concerned about public data being aggregated. If someone buys a pregnancy test kit and then gets a coupon in the mail for diapers because they swiped their ‘loyal shopper’ card, well, that was to be expected.

    it really pissed me off royally when most chain supermarkets extorted their customers into buying those “discount cards”.

    basically, they raised their rates on their goods by 20%, then forced their customers to give them their private data and be used as marketing data in order to get back 10% of a discount.

    I call that extortion.