How much do marketing companies really know about you? A lot. How do marketers know so much about you? They pay data brokers for information that has been collected from financial and legal records as well as your own disclosures. Now you can see that data too. Data brokerage giant Acxiom is offering an unprecedented look at the data it collects about you with their new site AboutTheData.com.
Credit bureaus which are obligated to give you access to a free credit report each year. Companies that collect data for marketing purposes have no such requirement, although some lawmakers feel they should. Acxiom has decided to share it's data with the public before it is forced to do so.
Using AbouttheData.com will allow you to see data that Acxiom has collected about you. This data may include demographic and financial categorization, buying habits and even hobbies.
The site lets you see the sources of each piece of data, which may have been something you filled out or a record of a transaction. It also allows you to correct or hide specific pieces of data or opt out altogether.
Of course, as Scott Howe, CEO of Acxiom, told the New York Times, the hope is that not too many people opt out and that data corrections are truthful:
“What happens if a flock of people who are 45 decide to be 39?” Mr. Howe asked. “What happens if 20 percent of the American population decides to opt out? It would be devastating for our business.”
When I checked my AbouttheData.com record I saw a lot of wrong information. Here are some examples of the errors:
- It only knows about one of my two children.
- It thinks I'm Italian. (I'm Lithuanian and Norwegian.)
- It thinks I spent a total of $323 in online and offline purchases at selected retailers in the past 24 months. (Those "selected retailers" must not include Target because I can exceed that there in one month.)
- Acxiom's list of my interests is pretty generic: parenting, computers, reading, fashion.
I do tend to be a bit privacy sensitive when it comes to sharing my data. Is that why my information is so bad, or is everyone's record this wrong? Is AbouttheData.com just a ploy to get us to enter some better information? In the New York Times article CEO Howe warned that some of the data is out of date, but my daughter is two-and-a-half. She really hasn't hit Acxiom's radar yet?
Also, Frontline documentary "The Persuaders" called Acxiom the world's largest consumer of data, but AbouttheData.com only shows me a few dozen data points at most for each of its 6 categories. Where is the rest of it?
I was also disappointed in the vagueness of the data sources. "Self-reported," "surveys," or "retail buying activity" are much less specific than what I was hoping to see. I want to know exactly what websites and companies are sharing my data. This didn't even give me a hint.
Overall, I found the AbouttheData.com information to be pretty boring. What would really be unprecedented would be seeing what Acxiom derives from the basic data. That is, when they do their data mining and start making guesses about details they may not know for sure. That's the good stuff, and that's what companies really pay Acxiom to do.
If you are curious about your own Acxiom profile and what marketers know about you, log on to AbouttheData.com and find out. Is your record as inaccurate as mine? If so, do you intend to fix it?
To learn more about Acxiom follow these links:
- Frontline: The Persuaders (Video and Transcript)
- New York Times: A data broker offers a peek behind the curtain
Wondering why you should care who collects data about you? Here are five reasons why you should care about privacy.
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