Since publication of the first Sears catalog in the late 19th century, marketers have used personal data to connect with customers and enhance communications. Much of the information collected and stored in those early days came from government records like census and homeowner data.

However, the eventual proliferation of computers and the internet led to much easier storage and access to even nonpublic consumer information like product preferences, payment methods, and even cross-brand purchase habits. Consumer data is plentiful and accessible, making marketers more responsible than ever for safeguarding the privacy of their customers.

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