You probably assume Google and Facebook know everything about you. You may not have heard of a group of companies who possibly know even more. They’re called data brokers, and their business is collecting and selling personal data—typically without your knowledge or consent—that are used to verify identity, help marketers, detect fraud and help perform detailed “people searches.”
Most people have little idea that these companies exist. A new Federal Trade Commision (FTC) report out today attempts to shed more light on them. The report describes an industry that collects data from many sources without consumers knowing; that is multi-layered and intertwined; and that stores billions of data points covering nearly every US consumer.