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    Wall Street Journal: Exploring Ways to Build a Better Consumer Profile

    The Wall Street Journal reports on a plan by consumer-research firm Nielsen and digital-marketing Firm eXelat to merge online and offline data in order to create more detailed profiles of consumers for targeted behavioral advertising. (Last month, the Financial Times reported on a new deal in the United Kingdom between Yahoo search engine and Nectar, a loyalty-card company, that would link online ads to individuals’ offline purchases, raising privacy questions.)

    EXelate Media, a start-up that collects and sells Web data on consumers, is set to announce an alliance Monday with Nielsen, the big consumer-research firm. The two firms say that under the deal, eXelate will tie its data on more than 150 million Internet users to Nielsen’s database, which includes information on 115 million American households, to provide more-detailed profiles of consumers.

    “We can build [consumer] profiles from any building blocks,” says Meir Zohar, chief executive of eXelate, which has offices in New York and Israel. “Age, gender, purchase intent, interests, parents, bargain shoppers—you can assemble anything.”

    EXelate gathers online consumer data through deals with hundreds of Web sites. The firm determines a consumer’s age, sex, ethnicity, marital status and profession by scouring Web-site registration data. It pinpoints, for example, which consumers are in the market to buy a car or are fitness buffs, based on their Internet searches and the sites they frequent. It gathers and stores the information using tracking cookies, or small strings of data that are placed on the hard drive of a consumer’s computer when that consumer visits a participating site. […]

    The partnership represents one of the most aggressive efforts to tailor ads for specific groups of consumers. Online marketing firm BlueKai says it is striking similar deals with a series of more-traditional consumer-research firms, including Next Action, Bizo and Acxiom, which track data ranging from real-estate and motor-vehicle records to credit-card and shopping histories. […]

    Lawmakers, regulators and privacy advocates say consumers could find that too intrusive. “If consumers learn that information about them has been compiled from multiple different sources, it certainly could cause them to be concerned,” says Christopher Olsen, an assistant director in the division of privacy and identity protection at the Federal Trade Commission.

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