Rockefeller: 'Data brokers' worse than NSA spying

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said tracking by "data brokers" is worse than surveillance by the U.S. government.

During a Wednesday hearing on the data broker industry, Rockefeller compared data brokers’ tracking of Americans to government surveillance of Americans, saying the latter is less concerning.

“The [National Security Agency] is so secure in its protection of privacy as compared to this group that we’re talking to, these data brokers,” he said. “It’s not even close.”

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Rockefeller also repeated accusations that three data brokers — Acxiom, Experian and Epsilon — failed to turn over information to the committee as it conducted its investigation into the data broker industry. The committee released its report on the investigation Wednesday.

“I’m putting these three companies on notice today,” he said, for “continuing to resist oversight” and failing to provide the requested information about where companies get information about consumers and to whom they sell that information.

Rockefeller said he is “considering further steps, and I have steps ... that I can take to get this information.”

Experian Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tony Hadley testified at the hearing. Hadley named publicly listed Experian clients but told Rockefeller that the company cannot legally disclose more specific information about its clients.

“I can’t tell you who our clients are,” he said. “That’s a proprietary list of ours. That’s like our secret ingredient.”

Rockefeller pushed him to name more Experian clients. “If you selectively do it, you can broadly do it,” he said.

“We’re very sorry about that, but we simply can’t do that,” Hadley said.

Rockefeller scolded the data brokers for failing to provide information to the committee.

“This is a serious subject,” he said. “We have the feeling people are getting scammed or screwed. ... It’s up to you to talk us out of that.”