Privacy / Security

Private Data Brokers Know Too Much About You

A forgotten footnote to history: Adolf Hitler used Big Data to round up Jews and others he labeled enemies and “untermenschen.”

The Nazis didn’t have computers in the 1930s. They used punch-card sorting machines that were manufactured by a German subsidiary of IBM. IBM +0.33% One of these contraptions is on display at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

It remains a footnote because it’s easier not to think about it. It’s easier to believe America’s largest corporations have good intentions. It’s easier to believe nothing so nefarious will ever happen again in a civilized society.

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission published a detailed report on all the information that private data brokers have collected on you.

The nine companies that the agency studied— Acxiom, ACXM -1.13% CoreLogic, CLGX -0.38% Datalogix, eBureau, ID Analytics, Intelius, PeekYou, Rapleaf and Recorded Future—apparently know just about everything.

If you’ve made a purchase in a Judaica shop, they know that. If you celebrate Kwanzaa, they know that. If you are a white, middle-class gun owner, they know that too.

They’ve got your phone number, your driver’s-license number and your Social Security number.

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