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Government agencies at all levels selling personal data to marketers

Sunday, September 01, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: government agencies, personal data, marketers

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(NaturalNews) How many times have you gone to your mailbox and found it stuffed with useless junk mail? If you're like most Americans, you find that happens a lot.

One of the major reasons why as much as 60 percent of the mail we get is worthless to us - and why we tend to get more of it after major life events - is because government agencies at virtually all levels are selling your personal information to scores of direct marketers.

Per CBS4 in Denver:

Eric Meer is a small business owner who works out of his home in Denver's Stapleton neighborhood. Meer says he was deluged by direct mail after registering his small business with the Colorado Secretary of State. He says many of the ads he received were deceptive asking him to pay fees that he wasn't required to pay.

'It feels like betrayal'

Immediately Meer says he got a hunch that the Colorado Secretary of State's office sold his business info to marketing firms. The local CBS affiliate found out that his hunch was correct; last year, the Secretary of State's office raked in some $59,000 by selling business registration data.

Once again, so much for the Fourth Amendment's privacy protections. As usual, everyone except the government has to respect it.

"It feels like a betrayal," Meer said in what we believe is an understatement of epic proportions. "Because our government is supposed to protect us, not to sell our information and profit from us."

And how.

Andrew Cole, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's office, completely whiffed on explaining the sales. He told CBS4 that the business information is sold for anywhere between $200 and $12,000, depending on the frequency and amount of info requested.

But, he said, not to worry - the Secretary of State isn't making any money on the sales. No. They are only charging as much as it takes to run the information for the purchasing marketer.

"We are not looking to make money," said Cole. "We charge to cover our costs."

Oh, okay then. By all means, go ahead and continue to violate the Constitution. Because that's allowed, you see, as long as you're not making a profit.

Who thinks like that?

What's more, Cole says, businesses don't have the option of opting out. He says anyone can buy the data, even scammers, because there is no process in place to screen requesting firms.

"It's a public database," Cole said. He said it's "meant to be public" and part of running a transparent government.

My guess is that most business registrars a) don't know that; and b) were not told that when they registered.

The data sold is pretty personal, as well. "The Secretary of State also sold voter registration information - including names, addresses and political party affiliation of voters - for $58,000, last year," CBS4 reported.

Okay, so have you ever received a surge of confusing mail after you've either refinanced a house, been foreclosed upon or sold your home? Well, the local TV news found that that's because the Denver Clerk and Recorder is selling that information as well. The department made $32,000 in income in 2012, in fact.

Government 'caters' to marketers

More from CBS4:

It happens in college, too. The University of Colorado Boulder buys names from the SAT for 33 cents each and names from the ACT for 34 cents each for recruiting purposes. CU sells student information to private meal plans and storage companies for $15,000 a year.

Death is also a saleable item. The Social Security Administration sells what is called a "Master Death Index" for $7,500 each. That usually results in a deluge of mail being sent to surviving family members, asking them to purchase a home.

"What average consumer needs to know the deaths that happened in the last three months or the new businesses that registered?" local marketer Becky Seely asks. She says clearly the government agencies are catering to marketers.

"It's kind of an endless black hole of lists, unfortunately," Seely said.

Sources:

http://denver.cbslocal.com

http://www.krextv.com

http://www.dailypaul.com
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