Data firms are on alert. Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia yesterday sent requests to nine data firms including Acxiom and Facebook partner DataLogix, asking them to provide detailed information on the consumer data they collect, which firms they've sold it to, and how it's used. Rockefeller is one of many legislators who have proposed privacy bills that could affect how advertisers collect and employ data.
"Because consumers are now able to conduct nearly all of their daily business online, an unprecedented amount of personal, medical and financial information about them can be mined, collected, and sold," wrote the Democrat in letters sent to Acxiom, Datalogix, Epsilon, Equifax, Experian, Rapleaf, LexisNexis owner Reed Elsevier, Spokeo and Transunion.
Facebook began partnering with data matching firm DataLogix about a year ago to help measure the impact of Facebook ads on in-store sales. The relationship garnered attention recently through a Financial Times story that spawned questions regarding Facebook user privacy.
Absent from Rockefeller's list were firms that specialize in voter file data used by political campaigns and organizations, such as Aristotle, Catalist and NGP Van. Also not included are digital data and audience targeting firms such as BlueKai, Exelate and Lotame.
Rockefeller, who proposed his Do-Not-Track Online bill in 2011, suggested in his letter that, "An ever-increasing percentage of [consumers'] lives will be available for download and the digital footprint they will inevitably leave behind will become more specific and potentially damaging, if used improperly." Rockefeller cited data breaches that have occurred in recent years, and stressed "the need for both the Congress and the American people to better understand what consumer information is being collected and stored."
The Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Rockefeller noted in his missive that answers to his questions about the information that data firms collect and monetize "remain elusive."
Once his November 2 deadline for responses rolls around, he may still find those answers hidden in the shadows. The Senator asked the data firms to list the private and government sources of information they have received since January 2009 - including the contracts and terms. In addition, the data firms were asked to describe the methods used to gather data, how that data is linked to specific consumers and their devices, and to list each product or service offered to third parties that employ the consumer data they sell.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
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