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Data Brokerage

Overview

Companies and government agencies do not just directly collect data on US citizens and consumers. The data brokerage ecosystem is a vast but understudied form of indirect surveillance: numerous companies both foreign and domestic buy, sell, aggregate, license, and otherwise share sensitive information on American subjects as part of this international, multi-billion-dollar industry. Clients range from advertising firms and insurance providers to US law enforcement agencies and a range of foreign actors, and, as a result, the data brokerage ecosystem has implications for privacy, civil rights, national security, and democracy itself. The Data Brokerage Project, part of Duke’s Privacy & Democracy Project, conducts quantitative and qualitative research on this industry and its effects, producing research and actionable insights for policymakers and the general public.

Testimony

Senate Hearing on “Promoting Competition, Growth, and Privacy Protection in the Technology Sector,” December 7, 2021, featuring testimony by Justin Sherman, Fellow and Research Lead, Data Brokerage Project.

Recent Publications

Justin Sherman, “Data broker Oracle just acquired millions sensitive health data,” January 14, 2022

Justin Sherman, “Data Brokers Know Where You Are—and Want to Sell That Intel,” WIRED, August 23, 2021

Justin Sherman, “Data Brokers Are Advertising Data on U.S. Military Personnel,” Lawfare, August 23, 2021

Justin Sherman “Report: Data Brokers and Sensitive Data on U.S. Individuals”

Justin Sherman, “Third-Party Code Tracking and U.S. National Security,” Triangle Privacy Research Hub, August 4, 2021, https://www.triangleprivacyhub.org/access-to-information-the-media-trust-and-duke-university/

David A. Hoffman, “Schrems II and TikTok: Two Side of the Same Coin,” North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology, May 4, 2021, https://ncjolt.org/articles/volume-22/volume-22-issue-4/schrems-ii-and-tiktok-two-sides-of-the-same-coin/

Kamran Kara-Pabani and Justin Sherman, “How a Norwegian Government Report Shows the Limits of CFIUS Data Reviews,” Lawfare, May 3, 2021, https://www.lawfareblog.com/how-norwegian-government-report-shows-limits-cfius-data-reviews

Harrison Grant, “The Norwegian Consumer Council’s Work on Large Platforms and Data Transmissions from Mobile Apps,” Triangle Privacy Research Hub, April 28, 2021, http://www.triangleprivacyhub.org/access-to-information-duke-university-and-the-media-trust-april-update/

Justin Sherman, “Data Brokers Are a Threat to Democracy,” WIRED, April 13, 2021, https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-data-brokers-are-a-threat-to-democracy/

Justin Sherman, “Federal Privacy Rules Must Get ‘Data Broker’ Definitions Right,” Lawfare, April 8, 2021, https://www.lawfareblog.com/federal-privacy-rules-must-get-data-broker-definitions-right

Media

Senators turn up the heat on Amazon, data brokers during hearing,” The Hill, December 7, 2021

Senate Finance to scrutinize Amazon, data brokers,” Politico, December 7, 2021

The Popular Family Safety App Life360 Is Selling Precise Location Data on Its Tens of Millions of Users,” The Markup, December 6, 2021

There’s a Multibillion-Dollar Market for Your Phone’s Location Data,” The Markup, September 30, 2021

Data Brokers and National Security,” Lawfare Podcast, September 1, 2021

House E&C leaders fret over Senate broadband plan,” Politico, August 24, 2021

Wyden urges ban on sale of Americans’ personal data to ‘unfriendly’ foreign governments,” The Washington Post, April 15, 2021

How state laws, FTC can help define ‘data brokers’ in a US privacy law,” International Association of Privacy Professionals, April 13, 2021