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Federal Trade Commission says it is investigating companies that sell consumer information

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The online tracking industry is remarkably ungainly, as shown in this small sample of a chart that monitors the flow of information between advertisers and publishers.Luma Partners

The government says it will investigate companies that collect and sell personal information about consumers to determine whether they need to improve their privacy practices.

The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday that it ordered nine data brokers to provide the agency with details about their sources of information, how they use the information they gather and whether consumers have access to the data.

The consumer profiles assembled by data brokers allow advertisers and retailers to tailor marketing campaigns to specific customers.

The nine companies are: Acxiom of Little Rock, Ark.; Corelogic of Irvine, Calif.; Datalogix of Westminster, Colo.; eBureau of St. Cloud, Minn.; ID Analytics of San Diego; Intelius of Bellevue, Wash.; Peekyou of New York; Rapleaf of Chicago; and Recorded Future of Cambridge, Mass.