The other day I came across this story about how companies like TransUnion Credit Bureau will sell your personal information (including social security numbers) to companies like Comcast. The basic story is Comcast asked a woman for her Social Security number when she signed up. She refused and so had to pay a security deposit. Then late she found out they got her social security number from one of the credit bureaus. Now Utah lawmakers are considering a law that would allow customers to tell the credit bureaus not to sell their information. The credit bureaus do not like this idea because they say it will hurt their business.
I'm going to write a letter to my state representative about this. I don't think it is right or safe for credit bureaus or data aggregators to be able to sell my social security number. I have mixed feelings about phone numbers and address. For most people, that information is freely available in a phone book, so I think that information is OK to collect. One of my former co-workers said that he had no problem with companies selling his information, as long as they gave him a cut. I might be willing to go with this model because companies would be less likely to buy the information if it cost more. I also think there should be a law that if a company has personal information stored that it doesn't "need" for normal business purposes and that information is misused, the company should be liable. We'll see how this turns out.
(It looks like the bill passed in its committee. See here)