Help us report on data hoarding

We’d like to create an explainer or timeline of ways companies and organizations have historically collected, hoarded, and sold people’s personal data. The project has increasing relevance in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and ahead of the May 2018 launch of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which will force companies to protect people’s data.

Data firm Cambridge Analytica came under scrutiny this week for collecting the data of 50 million Facebook users, without their knowledge, which it then used to identify and predict political behavior.

But data hoarding has been occurring for years, and possibly decades. The British electoral roll has been sold to companies who use its data to contact consumers (Financial Times) in the same way email addresses are shared with third parties to expand organizations’ reach.

Tell us what should be in the story


Questions to explore:

  • What historical events and examples of personal data being collected, analyzed, or sold can be cited?
  • Should historic precedent change our perspective on the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook data breach?
  • Which private sector companies have bought databases of information for marketing, political, or other purposes?
  • Why do people accept terms and conditions knowing their data may be compromised or shared?
  • What protections are in place for users to protect their privacy?
  • What percentage of the general public cares about their data being collected?

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