On February 12, the Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 was introduced in the United States Senate by Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) in an effort to lift the “veil of secrecy” behind data collection by ensuring accuracy and accountability for consumers.  The legislation would empower the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the law and to impose civil penalties on data brokers that violate the law’s requirements.

The Data Act defines a “broker” as any commercial entity that “collects, assembles, or maintains” data on individuals who are not customers or employees “in order to sell the information or provide third party access.”  The legislation is intended to prevent deceptive collection or solicitation of consumer information.  It would allow consumers to access and correct their information, as well as to opt out of having it collected and sold for marketing purposes.

In October 2012, Rockefeller launched an investigation into the data broker industry to give consumers a better understanding of how their personal information is handled, issuing information requests to nine representative data brokers. At a December 2013 hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Rockefeller stated that the data brokerage industry is not subject to appropriate oversight, causing accountability and privacy concerns. The Commerce Committee also released its majority staff report in December 2013 summarizing its investigation into how data brokers collect, compile, and sell consumer information.  At Rockefeller’s request, the General Accounting Office also released a report in November 2013, concluding that there ought to be a comprehensive law governing the collection, use and sale of personal information by companies.