Advertisers Are About to Know Even More About You. And It’s Sorta Scary

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Consumers: Thanks to the web, and the long string of digital data one produces with each click, market researchers know more about your behavior than ever before. And they will soon be able to get inside your brain and get even better at predicting your buying habits.

The consumer is one of the most closely studied creatures on earth. Consumer researchers are deeply aware, for example, of the recession-era consumer profile: someone who is doing his consuming in less conspicuous fashion than in recent times, and who
must be reconditioned to buy stuff without thinking about it, and who is comfortable taking on risk.

Now, as the WSJ reports, a company that collects and sells digital data on consumers called eXelate—to me, the name sounds totally ominous, like some conglomerate run by an evil super genius who can only be stopped by James Bond, or perhaps The Incredibles—is about to cut a deal that’ll deliver even more (and more specific) data about consumers:

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.

Advertisers, in turn, purchase the cookie data from eXelate and use it to buy targeted online ads.

The new deal will allow advertisers to go to eXelate to buy New York-based Nielsen’s trove of data converted to a cookie-based digital format. That data comes from sources including the Census Bureau, the firm’s own research and that of other consumer-research firms, such as Mediamark Research and Experian Simmons.

On the one hand, at least you’ll be inundated with ads for products that, in theory, you should have some interest in, rather than random stuff broadcasted to the masses. On the other, since ads will be more catered to appeal specifically to you, consumers are going to face even more temptation to buy, buy, buy.