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Neustar and Data – Privacy By Design

There are few public policy issues that are more actively debated than consumer privacy.  And that is how it should be.  Privacy is important to each of us and, as technology evolves, our understanding of privacy and how it should be protected must also evolve.

At Neustar we are proud of our ability to help businesses focus their marketing efforts and deliver great customer service while respecting consumer privacy and empowering consumer choice.  We are committed to protecting the proprietary information entrusted to us by our customers and to protecting the privacy of people who do business with our customers.  As we continue to expand our business into information services and data analytics – particularly with our acquisition of TARGUSinfo (now Neustar Information Services) last year – we have embraced “privacy by design” and build privacy protections into new services as we develop them.

We have, of course, followed recent press articles and inquiries from lawmakers about  the tracking of people’s behavior and the use of data arising from that tracking.  While we are not in the business of tracking behavior or profiling individuals based on their conduct or purchases, we want to tell you what we do – and what we don’t do – with consumer data.

What we don’t do

Neustar Information Services (NIS) does not track anyone’s online activity, we do not track anyone’s offline activity, and we do not profile consumers based on their personal behaviors or preferences.

What we do

NIS does provide data analytics services, which helps businesses to understand and serve their existing customers and to reach other people who are likely to be interested in the products and services they offer.

Through our On-Demand Identification and On-Demand Verification, we help businesses interact with their customers in real-time — when customers contact those businesses.

  • NIS’s “On-demand Identification” service, for example, provides businesses with expanded caller identification services.  To provide this service, NIS compiles and verifies name, address, and/or telephone information from a variety of public and private sources.  When someone calls one of our business customers (let’s say to complain about a broken appliance), using the incoming telephone number, we can provide the caller’s name and address. This enables our customer to access its own records to identify the appliance make and model, and easily dispatch a repair team to the proper address.
  • NIS’s On-Demand Verification service uses similar information from similar sources to help businesses confirm customer contact information by evaluating how likely it is the name, address, telephone number, and/or email address (when the contact is online) provided by their customer actually go together.  This allows businesses to correct inaccurate information quickly, decide whether they are interacting with the right person, and understand how best to respond to a customer inquiry.  It also can help businesses prevent fraud.

NIS also provides Market Segmentation services to help businesses focus their sales and marketing efforts, and to reach people who are most likely to be interested in their services or products.  Using our tools, a client can analyze its existing customer base in order to understand the kinds of consumers who are more likely than others to be interested in its products and services.  NIS does not use consumer-specific behaviors or characteristics to build “profiles” about specific individuals.  We do not track anyone’s behavior, likes or dislikes.

Rather, at NIS we apply proprietary algorithms to a combination of basic demographic data (neighborhood type, ownership/rental, presence of children, age range, cost of living, income range) to assign households to a market segment. The combination of those variables, rather than any single variable, determines which segment a household falls into.  Those market segments, which we call “Elements,” are identified by a number, and each Element includes hundreds of thousands of households, at a minimum.  For example, Element “83” corresponds to urban households that are likely to be composed of younger, middle-income renters.  We then extrapolate from surveys of “similar” consumers to predict interests, preferences, or characteristics of other households in that Element.  For example, we may predict based on survey responses that Element 83 households are more likely to be interested in compact cars and less likely to be interested in SUVs compared to households in a different Element.

We are sometimes asked why we provide – and why our customers buy – these services.  It’s pretty simple.  Whether online or offline, marketing is expensive and consumer goodwill is precious.  Businesses want to use their marketing dollars to reach people who are likely to have an interest in their products and services.  This makes businesses more efficient and allows them to save resources that can be used for other purposes.

Our commitment to consumer privacy and choice extends to the online environment.  NIS does not deliver online behavioral advertising and does not track user activities, browsers, or other devices. Rather, working with online businesses that have established relationships with their customers, NIS is able to associate an Internet browser with a household Element and, in some cases, the birth year, gender, and zip code of the user.  We place a cookie containing the household market segment on the computers of people who have relationships with our customers. The cookie does not contain personally identifying information, and cannot be modified to reflect online behavior. Importantly, we do not retain any personally identifying information used to associate a market segment with a particular browser.

Finally, we adhere to both the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) industry guidelines and the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) principles, and provide an opt-out for individuals who prefer not to receive our cookie.  In keeping with our commitment to transparency, we also make it easy for people to determine whether or not they have a TARGUSinfo/NIS cookie on their browsers.  Anyone who does can also easily see what information that cookie contains, correct basic demographic information, or opt-out completely.  You can learn more about this online at http://www.adadvisor.net.  To see whether you have a TARGUSinfo/NIS cookie, manage your profile, or opt-out, you can visit http://www.adadvisor.net/profileManager.html.

 

dot Neustar and Data – Privacy By Design
Becky Burr

About Becky Burr

Becky Burr is Neustar's Chief Privacy Officer and Deputy General Counsel. She is a founding member of the board of directors of the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

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