Having been in the direct marketing business for much of my career I have been familiar with Little Rock, Arkansas-based Acxiom including yesterday when he formally introduced www.aboutthedata.com an Acxiom website that offers consumers the chance to review some of the data Acxiom has collected about them.
This morning’s NY Times article offers details. Most people are aware that the buying and selling of consumer data – their consumer data, takes place without their knowledge. This fact makes most people (including me) a bit uncomfortable if not more so. The allaboutdata.com site is all about making an attempt to mollify an increasingly concerned populace when it comes to the collection, storage and release of what used to be sensitive personal data. I note used to be because it is the mission of data companies to acclimate the public to the idea that their information is only digitized in the form of numbers and the marketplace is based on the demographics and behaviors of those digitized records. Companies like Acxiom would like you to believe that in their database you are not recognized as John Smith, but record – 01456xxxx-xxxx, (you get the idea).
Marketers – in particular direct marketers are extremely interested in putting relevant offers in front of prospective customers. Companies like Acxiom with its data rich records help marketers hone in on a narrower, highly defined and hopefully relevant prospect pool. This also goes for customers who exhibit certain behaviors so that the most relevant offers for its other products are moved to the front of the line.
Acxiom (there are competitors like Experian, Dun & Bradstreet and Accenture), has more than 32 billion data records updated each month. The databases are comprehensive and each week Acxiom (from its own website copy), ‘powers more than a trillion transactions that enable better living for people for our 7,000 global clients’. Kind of makes your skin crawl a bit no? They know things about you – or more properly your data record. Lots of things. How many kids you have, their ages, all about your cars, house, mortgage, dining and retail buying behavior (via credit card data), vacation spots, and much more.
The allaboutdata.com site per Mr. Howe will allow consumers to make changes to their data records in the interest of having the most correct data possible. From the NY Times article – Julie Brill, a member of the F.T.C., described the Acxiom site as “a first step down this important road towards greater transparency.” Apparently consumers will be able to opt-out of Acxiom’s marketing database but at present it will continue to not possible opt out of every Acxiom product. After all having a smaller amount of data records would not aid corporate earnings in any way.
I’m not sure the launch of the new allaboutdata.com site makes me feel more or less comfortable. How about you?