The FTC report provided an unusually detailed account of the system of commercial surveillance that draws on government records, shopping habits and social-media postings to help marketers hone their advertising pitches. Officials said the intimacy of these profiles would unnerve some consumers who have little ability to track what's being collected or how it's used -- or even to correct false information. The FTC called for legislation to bring transparency to the multibillion-dollar industry and give consumers some control over how their data is used.


He said the FTC's inability to find documented abuse of personal information suggests that data brokers should continue operating through self-regulation rather than new government intervention. "You'd think if there was a real problem, they'd be able to talk about something other than potential" abuses, Ingis said.


Ingis said that the FTC's proposals, such as a requirement for a centralized portal for consumers who want to know what information data brokers collect about them, are unnecessary and cumbersome. "I'm not sure that there's a problem that requires a law here," he said.

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