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Can you really 'reclaim your name'?

Retailers, marketers and others have personal information about you. A new proposal would let consumers know what information data-hoarding firms have.

By Oct 29, 2013 12:54PM

This post comes from Bob Sullivan at partner site on MSN MoneyFeel like you've lost control of your identity and personal information? The "Reclaim Your Name" initiative aims to win control back for you.

Reclaim Your Name is the brainchild of FTC Commissioner Julie Brill, who ventured into the belly of the Beast on Monday -- -- to make a case for more consumer control over Big Data.


Privacy © Beathan/Corbis"Data brokers, marketers and other companies that join the big-data stampede while ignoring basic privacy principles do so at their own peril," she wrote. "Brushing . . . principles aside has led some companies to adopt a 'collect first, ask questions later' approach to personal data."

Brill announced Reclaim Your Name earlier this year, during the height of the NSA eavesdropping scandal. Her point: Government monitoring might sound alarming, but for most Americans, corporate monitoring is a much more real possibility.

Reclaim Your Name calls on the data collection industry to make it easy for consumers to find out what information data-hoarding firms have, and to fix any errors. Brill envisions a Web portal, one-stop-shop for finding data and correcting mistakes. Already, we've seen some steps on this direction: earlier this year, data broker Acxiom unveiled, which lets consumers get a sense of the billions of pieces of data Acxiom houses on its servers.

Putting the burden on consumers

Reclaim Your Name is a good start but falls short of a similar effort in Europe known as "The Right to Be Forgotten."

European lawmakers have been considering the simplest of privacy proposals for the past two years:  legislation that would allow consumers to tell firms they must "forget" everything they know about them.

After years of negotiations, a European Parliament committee last week recommended an update to EU data privacy laws that would include a more precisely-named "right to the erasure of data." The rules also give consumers the right to change their minds after they give a company like Facebook authority to profit from use of data. The new rules would require firms to make withdrawal of consent as easy as giving consent.

Brill's Reclaim Your Name effort, while an excellent start, is a half-measure when compared to Europe's proposal. It does require firms to make it easy for a consumer to object to misinformation; that's good. However, it all but concedes that a long list of firms consumers have never heard of have the right to profit from buying and selling personal information.

Reclaim Your Name would put the burden of reclaiming on consumers, who would have to visit the imagined clearinghouse site to fix errors and grasp the extent of corporate monitoring. Behaviorists would rightly predict only a tiny fraction of consumers might bother to do so.

Tracking the source of mistakes

Privacy law expert Anita Ramasastry, of the University of Washington, raised another potential shortcoming of the U.S. effort in a recent column. Will consumers victimized by mistakes be able to get to the bottom of the errors, or be sentenced to the digital wild goose chase already familiar to many victims of inaccuracy?

"Would data brokers have a duty to reveal how they obtained data—which source they purchased it from, or what database it comes from?" she wrote. "Tagging and coding the origins of data is crucial if consumers are going to have any hope of being able to pursue information trails and figure out how mistakes on their credit report got made."

Of course, the elephant in the server room is the appearance of mistakes in the first place.  Everyone and their (sometimes incorrectly identified) family members have shown that data broker databases are riddled with errors. The Federal Trade Commission showed it last year. I showed it by using

It would be a tragedy of Orwellian proportions if all a Reclaim Your Name portal accomplished was to enlist consumers in a massive free crowdsourcing effort to fix bad Big Data for data brokerage firms. Brill talks about increasing consumer choice in her proposal, but unless that choice includes something similar to a right to be forgotten, and unless the burden is on the industry -- not consumers -- to make those preferences clear, Reclaim Your Name will simply be a cute, rhyming slogan.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its affiliates.

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I want my information deleted globally! If I deal with companies, I ex[ect them to keep track of me internally; I do not want them giving my information to anyone else for any reason. Period. Maybe if consumers started tracking and trading inside information about companies they would get the point!
Oct 29, 2013 3:10PM
ANYBODY who sells information about me, like my name, etc. should be REQUIRED to have my WRITTEN permission, for EACH sale, and to PAY me for each sale thereof. All others should be subject to authorized collection activities to recover same. Starting with seizure of any and all assets, including bank accounts and real estate. Violence may ensue.
Oct 29, 2013 2:17PM
All the SuperPAC money in the world won't allow for peon citizens to actually own anything, much less the right to their own personal rights and property.
Oct 30, 2013 9:12AM

And all the stuff about gov't spying, we should be up in arms about what Big Corps are doing with our information as well. 


This reclaim your name is so typical of reform here in the US, big hype with little teeth and we're still out holding the bag.  This 'reclaim your name' should be a carbon copy of Europe's version.  Where are our rights? 


Never mind the NSA look out for the Big Corporations.  Also, if they sell my info, why can't I profit from it as well?  How about some residual income from these greedy and nosey SOBs!?

Oct 30, 2013 7:41AM

I have had people use my name and other items.

To do whatever they wanted.

When I did see this on my credit report!

I got rid of it.

Some if not most people are not so lucky!

Because of how credit agencies will refuse to check in to it.

Mostly because there are so many others that have found mistakes as well.

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