Secretive data companies are tracking almost every American's every move online—and compiling and selling disturbingly targeted lists based on that spying, a new Senate Commerce Committee report concludes. That includes lists of rape victims, people suffering from ailments including HIV, AIDS, and dementia, and people with substance abuse problems, a privacy group said in a hearing yesterday, as per CNN. Mailing addresses for police officers and domestic violence shelters—the latter of which are usually protected by law—are also for sale, as are lists based on demographics and economics, including "Ethnic Second-City Strugglers," and "Rural and Barely Making It."
The World Privacy Forum urged Congress to act to "remove unsafe, unfair, and overall just deplorable lists from circulation." The Direct Marketing Association released a statement saying that while the lists are occasionally "used to disparage certain groups," they represented a "tiny minority" of marketing products. Overall the committee looked at nine companies, some of which refused to explain how they got their data or who they sold it to, Gawker reports. One company admitted it had sold social security numbers and banking information to an alleged identity theft ring. (Read more privacy stories.)