FTC Recommends Allowing People To Delete Data Collected About Them

May 27th, 2014

Would such legislation violate the First Amendment rights of data brokers?

Data brokers that collect, analyze and sell huge amounts of information on the activities of consumers for marketing purposes operate with “a fundamental lack of transparency,” the Federal Trade Commission said in a report on Tuesday.

The report is the result of a lengthy investigation of the data-broker industry, and it recommends that Congress enact legislation that requires the companies to disclose more information about themselves and the data they collect.

The legislation, the F.T.C. recommends, should give consumers access to the information collected about them by data brokers, allow consumers to suppress information and inform consumers what inferences are being made about them.

And even if there was some right to be forgotten, it would be virtually impossible to eliminate data from the internet.

Erasing links to information from Google would do relatively little — and not just because the information would still be available on the website that originally published it. Technologically, keeping things off the Internet is a game of cat and mouse, as anyone who has fought spammers or trolls knows well.

For example, Ms. Mason predicted that a new cottage industry of search engines to scour the hidden corners of the web would spring up in response.

Expect Google to start raising hackles as these calls get louder.

That seems more feasible than taking the advice of Eric Schmidt, Google’s chairman and former chief executive, who said that if you do something you don’t want anyone to know about, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.