At least three of America’s largest data brokers are potentially harming national security by selling information on U.S. active-duty military personnel, according to new research from Duke University.
Data brokers are companies that buy and sell online information in bulk—facilitating legitimate business such as credit scoring, advertising, and research.
However, critics say the industry is ripe for abuse. Privacy advocates have raised concerns that data brokers enable government to bypass Fourth Amendment protections by purchasing data instead of obtaining a warrant, while civil libertarians have compared the industry’s “consumer scores” to China’s social credit system.
On Monday, Duke University’s Data Broker Project released a report finding that three major data brokers—LexisNexis, Acxiom, and Nielsen—are selling information on U.S. active-duty military members.
“LexisNexis advertises a capability to search an individual and identify whether they are active-duty military,” the Duke report said.
“Acxiom also offers ‘verification and location of military servicemen (deployed but missing from base)’ as part of commercial work for credit card issuers and retail banks.”
As for Nielsen, the report said the company published research in 2019 on “today’s veteran consumers”—attempting to depict what active and former U.S. military personnel watch, where veterans shop, what veterans spend on what they buy, and how that compares to what the average household buys.
“Nielsen also advertises its ‘HomeScan DeCa (Defense Commissary Agency) database’ which ‘tracks consumer spending at military commissaries and exchanges,’” the report added. “The company has publicly published multiple other analyses of U.S. military personnel economic activity that draw on multiple Nielsen surveys and datasets.”
“And other brokers likely sweep up military personnel in their larger datasets.”
LexisNexis and Nielsen did not respond to media inquiries. Acxiom provided The Epoch Times with a statement about how it protects military and other data.
“The data Acxiom licenses to brands is classified as non-sensitive—marketing data from publicly available information and trusted sources. It is used under strict legal controls solely to help reputable brands and organizations better understand their current and potential customers,” Acxiom said.
By Ken Silva