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Axciom to reveal to consumers exactly what data they are holding #VRM

Acxiom, one of the most secretive and prolific collectors of consumer information, is embarking on a novel public relations strategy: openness. On Wednesday, it plans to unveil a free Web site where United States consumers can view some of the information the company has collected about them, just as Mr. Howe did.

The data on the site, called, includes biographical facts, like education level, marital status and number of children in a household; homeownership status, including mortgage amount and property size; vehicle details, like the make, model and year; and economic data, like whether a household member is an active investor with a portfolio greater than $150,000. Also available will be the consumer’s recent purchase categories, like plus-size clothing or sports products; and household interests like golf, dogs, text-messaging, cholesterol-related products or charities.

Each entry comes with an icon that visitors can click to learn about the sources behind the data — whether self-reported consumer surveys, warranty registrations or public records like voter files. The program also lets people correct or suppress individual data elements, or to opt out entirely of having Acxiom collect and store marketing data about them.   

scared consumer

If a personal detail is corrected on the site, the new entry will appear with an aside noting the previous, incorrect entry, letting consumers see what they amended. Mr. Howe acknowledged that the system was fallible because Acxiom obtains information from many different suppliers, and the latest data is not always available in its databases. He said he couldn’t predict how Acxiom’s clients might react to a system that lets consumers update profiles and perhaps fictionalize them, or opt out altogether from Acxiom’s marketing database.

“Citizens don’t know what of our personal information is on file or how it is being used,”Julie Brill, a member of the Federal Trade Commission, wrote in an op-ed article in The Washington Post in August, asking companies like Acxiom to make their practices more transparent. She added: “This frames the fundamental challenge to consumer privacy in the online marketplace: our loss of control over our most private and sensitive information.”

Stashed in: Big Data, Wait, What?, Privacy

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