Congressional inquiry set to convene on data industry

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Washington, D.C.—A congressional caucus investigating the practices of companies that collect and sell marketing databases and sales contact lists has invited nine major data brokers to a briefing Dec. 13. The Congressional Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, chaired by Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), has invited Acxiom Corp., Epsilon, Equifax Inc., Experian, Harte-Hanks, Intelius Inc., Fair Isaac, Merkle Inc. and Meredith Corp. to “inform members and the public about the multibillion dollar broker industry.” The caucus opened its investigation in July, seeking information from these companies about the sources of the data they collect; racial, ethnic or religious information collected; methods of collection (such as social media or mobile usage); and consumer data access and opt-out methods. Congress is also considering multiple pieces of legislation that would regulate online behavioral tracking for advertising purposes, as well as the control and use of customer data. These actions are opposed by the Direct Marketing Association and other advertising organizations. “There is the view that any company that collects, aggregates, analyzes or shares customer information is potentially suspect,” said Rachel Thomas, DMA's VP-government affairs.” The DMA, which argues that the industry can regulate itself, has also been invited to the briefing.
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