The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been inundated with complaints that personal information is too easy to obtain over the Internet and announced last week that it will examine the growing trend of the so called "look-up services".
Look-up services are search engines such as People Find from Lycos and BigFoot that search for a person's Email address using the individual's name. The engine trawls through a series of databases until it tracks down the relevant information.
The FTC said it was concerned that the lookup services may expose sensitive information such as social security numbers, current and prior addresses, and dates of birth. The formation may be found by the engine and then passed on to the person doing the search without any notification.
As part of its study the FTC said it will examine all the information made available during a search and examine consumers' concerns.
The FTC also announced that it will hold a workshop dedicated to dealing with some of the concerns it has received and devote a day to discussingthe question of "open databases". Current practices on the retrieval and subsequent use of personal data will also be examined.
Why is it that the UK and the rest of Europe lags so far behind the US in this field? Information on people living in the UK is as readily available as that of US citizens, yet there are no bodies in the UK equipped to deal with such concerns.
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