Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

FTC Urged to Probe Personal Data Sellers

Filed under
Security

A privacy rights advocacy group has asked the Federal Trade Commission to examine whether websites advertising investigative services capable of digging up personal information such as phone call records are violating federal laws.

The Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint with the federal agency Thursday, singling out Encinitas, Calif.-based Intelligent E-Commerce Inc., which runs Bestpeoplesearch.com.

"We've asked the FTC to begin an industrywide investigation into these practices," Chris Hoofnagle, senior counsel at the group's San Francisco office, said Friday.

The advocacy group contends that the company's services and those of hundreds of similar online investigation firms constitute unfair or deceptive business practices.

The website offers to find personal information on individuals including unlisted phone numbers and addresses, detailed phone records, employment history and motor vehicle data.

The firm also offers to identify the owner of a post-office box and to provide information on an individual's criminal records. A list on the website Friday of the firm's most popular searches included finding a person's name and address from the person's cellphone number and obtaining a list of calls made from a cell number.

"If you own a post-office box, your ownership of that is private. That information is being sold," Hoofnagle said. "Your land line and cellphone billing records are being offered for sale. These are also protected by statute."

Some services aggregate and resell information from public records such as listed phone numbers, addresses and, in states where it's allowed, driver's license records.

But the privacy rights group says that's different from what online investigation services like Intelligent E-Commerce do.

The group accuses the firm and similar companies of procuring private information on phone records, for instance, by posing as the targets of their searches to gain access to their online billing sites or to get copies of bills.

"They're not buying it, they're calling up and they're pretending to be the actual customer to get the data," Hoofnagle said.

Neither the FTC nor Intelligent E-Commerce returned requests for comment.

Associated Press

More in Tux Machines

Debian Updated, Mint KDE Beta, GIMP Preview

Debian 8.7 was made available this last weekend to address the security and major bugs since 8.6 announced August 2016. As usual, those updating regularly don't need to do anything as they're already current. Elsewhere, Linux Mint founder Clement Lefebvre announced a beta for Mint 18.1 KDE, something I'm looking forward to testing. Alexandre Prokoudine, graphics engineer known for Inkscape and GIMP, posted a preview of new features coming in GIMP 2.10. Dominic Humphries recently revelled in the joy of Linux that just works and Jiri Eischmann compiled a list of the latest Fedora accolades, some I've missed. Read more

A Switch for Your Pi

Thanks to the size of the Raspberry Pi, it's possible to build a project like this into just about anything. I don't have an NES case anymore, but if I did, I'd probably build it inside one for added nostalgia. I decided to use RetroPie as the distribution for my project. The great thing about using RetroPie is that it basically solves all the issues on my list. It has the "Emulation Station" front end built right in (Figure 1), which supports navigation via controller. It also has emulators already installed, waiting for ROMs to be added. Truly, using RetroPie as my base saved at least one article on software alone! Read more

Why Linux users should worry about malware and what they can do about it

Preventing the spread of malware and/or dealing with the consequences of infection are a fact of life when using computers. If you’ve migrated to Linux or Mac seeking refuge from the never-ending stream of threats that seems to target Windows, you can breath a lungful of fresh air—just don’t let your guard down. Though UNIX-like systems such as Mac OS X and Linux can claim fewer threats due to their smaller user bases, threats do still exist. Viruses can be the least of your problem too. Ransomware, like the recent version of KillDisk, attacks your data and asks you to pay, well, a king’s ransom to save your files. (In the case of KillDisk, even paying the ransom can’t save you if you’re running Linux.) Read more

Getting my new Asus X540S notebook ready for Linux

A number of my laptops and netbooks have moved on to other homes and other purposes recently, so I have been looking for something new. Last weekend I saw an advertisement for an Asus X540SA at a ridiculously low price (CHF 299 / €280 / £245 / $300), which is always one of my criteria. Another criteria in this case was a 15" screen, and this ASUS has is 15.6", so that made the decision for me. Read more