Protecting Offline Privacy

Washington policy makers, long concerned about how marketers use consumers’ personal data to their guide sales pitches on the Internet, have stepped up scrutiny of the increasingly sophisticated ad-targeting techniques used in other media, ranging from mobile phones to TV commercials to the ads consumers get in their mail boxes.

In recent years, marketers have grown more adept at culling consumer data from an array of online and offline sources–including real-estate and motor-vehicle records, consumer surveys, credit-card data and logs of Web visitors’ online behavior–to identify the most receptive audiences for their ads.

At a hearing Thursday, a House subcommittee plans to explore the impact of these practices on consumer privacy, and will hear from witnesses including advertising giant WPP, database-marketing company Acxiom (ACXM), privacy advocates and others.

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