Senators call on FTC to tackle stalkers operating people search sites

Sense. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) want the Federal Trade Commission to take action to protect people who have been abused and harassed from invasive search sites, including potentially steps to help them remove their data broker addresses.

“We are writing to express serious concerns about recent reports that data brokers are releasing the location and contact details of victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking,” Senators wrote in the letter, who The hill reporter Chris Mills Rodrigo posted online. “We are seriously concerned that third-party data brokers are playing a role in the disclosure [a] address protected and giving access to personal information that could lead to continuous abuse.

The letter cites a 2020 Consumer reports risk story from data brokers like Intelius and Spokeo – which are billed as modern phone books, offering phone numbers, email addresses, physical addresses, and other information. These sites have opt-out policies, but the sheer volume of services – along with the way they automatically retrieve personal data – can make it nearly impossible to keep phone numbers or addresses offline at all times. This is despite some state laws regulating data brokers or offering privacy programs to people threatened by stalkers or attackers.

Murkowski and Klobuchar ask the FTC to describe how it could coordinate with other agencies to prevent violent abusers from gaining access to personal information, as well as its current measures to help educate victims about brokerage services and assist them in the event of a privacy breach. The letter also asks if the agency plans to prevent brokers from “collecting, buying or selling lists of vulnerable populations”.

The letter could be the precursor to more congressional action against online abuse and privacy. Klobuchar, for example, recently sponsored the SAFE TECH Act, which adds legal liability for sites hosting content related to harassment or harassment.

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