Bob Barr on Data Aggregators

19 Apr ’05

Former U.S Congressman Bob Barr is apparently now advising the A.C.L.U. on data privacy. He’s written an interesting piece on Findlaw concerning the recent issues with data aggregators. Quote:

The risk we face if we target all data providers with knee-jerk, oppressive legislation or regulation, is driving them beyond the reach of any kind of control. In other words, making the United States singularly inhospitable territory for data services will encourage new entrepreneurs to simply set up shop in places where they are subject to no restrictions. And, if you think having your personal information on file in a data warehouse in Atlanta is bad, imagine how much worse it would be to have it in India, Bangladesh, China, or anywhere else the prevalence of cheap labor and minimal government control create a hospitable environment. The current lack of meaningful international protocols or treaties on data aggregation clearly and understandably maximizes this risk.

It’s a thoughtful comment, but I wonder how relevant the concern is. I have my doubts for example, that the consumers and politicians who have raised the furor over recent events would distinguish between US data aggregators with sloppy business practices, and US companies that outsource data aggregation to foreign data aggregators with sloppy business practices. But perhaps the concern is valid – the ChoicePoints of the world tend to concentrate our concern about all of the businesses upstream of them that are their data sources.

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