Congress to investigate data sellers

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Washington, D.C.—A group of U.S. representatives has opened an investigation of companies that collect and sell marketing databases and sales contact lists. On Wednesday, Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) sent letters to Acxiom Corp., Epsilon, Equifax Inc., Experian, Harte-Hanks, Intelius Inc., Fair Isaac Corp. (FICO), Merkle Inc. and Meredith Corp., requesting such information as the sources of the data they collect; racial, ethnic or religious information collected; methods of data collection, such as social media or mobile usage; and consumer data access and opt-out methods. The letters requested information from 14 detailed and separate categories. Other signatories on the letters include Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). In addition to probing for privacy issues related to behaviorally targeted advertising, the representatives said they are troubled that data rankings of prospects "classify some people as high-value prospects ... while dismissing others as low-value." They claim the practice could restrict access to education, healthcare and employment. Acxiom issued a statement in response to the launch of the investigation. "We have long worked in the legislative and regulatory arena and with consumer groups to further inform interested parties," the company said. "...We are committed to increasing awareness in general [and] ... look forward to being an active participant in this important discussion."
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