Aggregated data from credit card purchases are increasingly being used for direct marketing, according to, a consumer news and advocacy organisation.

According to the organisation, MasterCard and American Express are stepping up their efforts to sell data on retail transactions by approaching advertising and marketing firms in an attempt to enlarge their client list.

At present, MasterCard has data representing 80 billion consumer purchases, while AmEx categorises its data, so marketers can reach consumers who are big spenders in specific retail segments such as automotive, fashion and travel.

The increased collection of consumer data has caused concern amongst privacy advocates:

"I think that individuals have an interest in transparency and control regarding the use of their personal data for advertising," said David Jacobs, consumer protection counsel at the electronic privacy information centre (EPIC).

"Unfortunately, there is currently a lack of transparency in the sale and aggregation of consumer information by data brokers and marketing companies."

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However, both MasterCard and AmEx maintain that the data is made anonymous so that individual consumers’ names are not revealed.

"We have strict policies in place to protect cardmembers’ privacy," said Amelia Woltering, American Express director of corporate affairs and communication.

"American Express does not provide any personally identifiable information or individual transaction information about its card members or a list of its card members to advertisers or business partners."

Further, Woltering said AmEx’s practices have always been fully explained in the company’s online privacy statement.

MasterCard also said it does not disclose personal information. "MasterCard is committed to protecting individuals’ privacy and uses only anonymous and aggregated information in producing information insights and other data analytic products and solutions," Andrew Bowins, senior VP of external communications, MasterCard Worldwide said.

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