Groups Want FTC to Wield Bigger Stick Over Big Data

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Argue for deeper dive into consolidation of data trackers/aggregators/marketers

Consumer groups are pushing the Federal Trade Commission to take a more muscular approach to vetting consolidation in the era of Big Data, including launching an investigation into the impact on the public of consolidation in "consumer offline and online data sources and digital marketing applications."

In a letter to FTC chair Edith Ramirez dated Friday (Feb. 6), the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), U.S. PIRG, Consumer Watchdog, and Public Citizen said they were concerned about the DOJ's approval of Oracle's purchase of data aggregation and tracking company Datalogix and want it to investigate the consolidation of data and data brokers.

The groups say Justice should have taken more time to review Oracle's purchase of Datalogix given that it inovoved "the merging of far-­reaching and powerful datasets and applications across key offline and online markets involving consumer financial, retail, auto sales, grocery, and other major sectors."

"The Oracle/Datalogix deal reflects the digital data ‘arms race’ underway where companies are amassing powerful and detailed sets of information to track and target a consumer anywhere, anytime,” said Jeff Chester, CDD’s executive director, and a leading voice for privacy protection. “Control over an individual’s information, and the capabilities to use it effectively in today’s Big Data era, are falling into fewer hands."

The groups said that rather than granting an early termination of the antitrust review for Oracle/Datalogix, it should have triggered a review under the Facebook and Google consent decrees (both Oracle and Datalogix partner with those companies, said the groups).

They say it also should have been reviewed by the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

In addition to an investigation into the impact of mergers by data-oriented companies, the groups call for a public workshop on the "data-driven marketing landscape" that includes the Justice Department and stakeholders.

"The American public deserves to know how the consolidation and use of their information affects their daily lives, from the prices they pay and the services they are offered to what this transaction means for their privacy."

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