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What Happens When an Acquaintance Buys Your Data?: A New Privacy Harm in the Age of Data Brokers

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Data brokers have begun to sell consumer information to individual buyers looking to track the activities of romantic interests, professional contacts, and other people of interest. The types of data available for consumer purchase seem likely to expand over the next few years. This trend invites the emergence of a new type of privacy harm, “relational control”—the influence that a person can exert on another in their social or professional networks using covertly acquired private information.

U.S. privacy laws do not protect consumers from the possibility of relational control. Moreover, few scholars have proposed reforms broad enough to address this problem. This Note surveys two frameworks which provide at least a starting point, and considers several other doctrinal shifts that might limit consumer vulnerability.

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