CDT’s Joseph Jerome writes in Slate:
In the spring, a small company no one has ever heard of lost the information of millions of Americans. Exactis leaked people’s contact information—along with whether they believe you are a smoker or drinker, and even the interests and habits of children—onto the public internet. This summer, another company gleefully bragged about sitting on “oceans of data” that could predict health care costs based on whether you purchase plus-size clothing and your television-viewing habits. These data brokers—companies that collect and sell or license the personal data of individuals with whom they have no business relationship—claim to be in the marketing business, but the implications of all this data have raised alarm bells for years and have serious security and safety implications.
New privacy laws in California, Europe, and elsewhere across the globe have restarted momentum around a national privacy law in Congress. As part of that, on Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing called “Examining Safeguards for Consumer Data Privacy,” where representatives from Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Charter Communications, Google, and Twitter will discuss their data practices. But the hearing, like the national conversation, will pay too much attention to the online data practices of big technology companies that people are already aware of. No one from a data broker will be at the hearing—which is no surprise, given these companies’ ability to stay under the radar. (It’s also notable that there won’t be a consumer-privacy advocate testifying.)