In a growing and controversial marketing practice, companies are now collecting billions of data points to profile consumers. Those data firms then sell that information to advertisers, who use it to tailor ads specifically aimed at users.

The Federal Trade Commission published a report urging Congress to require that data brokers be more transparent about the info they collect about consumers.

Is all this data collection legal? Judge Andrew Napolitano said on Happening Now that it’s legal as long as advertisers are gathering personal information through public sources.

He explained, “Public sources in this case would be efforts that you made to look at a product online and then the company with which you communicated selling your email address to these entities. […] If you Google a company that sells maternity clothes, they will sell the fact that you Googled them and your email address to a company that collects that and in turn, markets it.”

The only way to stop that from happening, the judge said, is to pass legislation prohibiting it. Earlier this month, the European Courts of Justice ruled that people have the “right to be forgotten,” meaning people can request their online footprint to be erased if the info is outdated or irrelevant.

As for the FTC’s urging, Judge Napolitano said, “I’m afraid of what true transparency looks like because the biggest spy of all is the federal government that now wants to regulate this.”

He believes that society can get some of its privacy back if there’s a will to do so. “It means more restraint on government and more freedom for consumers. […] It is philosophical, but if there’s a market for you and me to find a company  to go out there and erase our footprint from the Internet, that company should exist and survive and thrive and get rich.”