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An information broker, also known as an independent information professional or information consultant, is a person or business that researches information for clients. Common uses for information brokers include market research and patent searches, but can include practically any type of information research.
A Master's degree in library science (M.L.S.) or in library and information science (M.L.I.S.) is preferred or the norm. However, these prerequisites aren't always necessary. Some brokers have a master's or PH.D in law, social sciences or liberal arts.
In 1977 Kelly Warnken published the first fee-based information directory, which continues to be published and has expanded to cover international concerns. The Association of Independent Information Professionals, the first professional association devoted to information brokers, was formed in Milwaukee in 1987. The profession has its roots in 1937 when librarians and other information professionals formed an organization called the American Society for Information Science and Technology in an attempt to establish their professional identity separate from public libraries.
In fiction, information brokers usually find data for a story's main character(s). Fictional information brokers can be of varying importance and have varying methods. For example, a hacker can be an information broker, though they may be simply transferring whatever information they find to the main character(s). Other brokers may have memorized data and tell the main character(s) covertly. Also, a fee is not always involved. The information broker may have an alliance with the main character(s) or be one themselves.
Examples of information brokers in contemporary fiction would be DC Comics' superheroine, the Oracle; Edward G. Robinson's character Sol in the film Soylent Green; the Shadow Broker in the video game series Mass Effect; Nicholas Wayne, Rachel, Elean Duga, Gustav St. Germain, Carol, and the President of the Daily Days newspaper company in Baccano!; or Izaya Orihara in the light novel series Durarara!!.
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC), a nonprofit consumer organization in United States, published an online FAQ about information brokers. PRC also maintains a list of information brokers, with links to their privacy policies, terms of service, and opt-out privisions.
Introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush [D-IL1] on Apr 30, 2009, H.R. 2221 passed through the United States House of Representatives in the 111th Congress, and was revived by the 112th Congress as H.R. 1707. The bill contains a number of requirements for auditing and verification of accuracy of data held by information brokers, and additional measures in the case of a security breach. The bill also gives identified individuals the means and opportunity to review and correct the data held that relates to them.
In March 2012, the Federal Trade Commission issued a report advising businesses and consumers on the protection of privacy, data and digital security. The document, "Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change," recommended that Congress "consider enacting targeted legislation to provide greater transparency for, and control over, the practices of information brokers." It noted a "lack of transparency about the practices of information brokers, who often buy, compile, and sell a wealth of highly personal information about consumers," unbeknownst to them. Finding that consumers are "often unaware of the existence of these entities, as well as the purposes for which they collect and use data," the report recommended legislation giving consumers more knowledge of and control over information brokers' use of their data.