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Inside One of the World's Largest Data Brokers 64

itwbennett writes "Contrary to recent reports, data broker Acxiom is not planning to give consumers access to all the information they've collected on us. That would be too great a challenge for the giant company, says spokesperson Alexandra Levy. Privacy blogger Dan Tynan recently spoke with Jennifer Barrett Glasgow, Chief Privacy Officer at Acxiom (she claims to be the very first CPO) about how the company collects information and what they do with it. This should give you some small measure of comfort: 'We don't know that you bought a blue shirt from Lands End. We just know the kinds of products you are interested in. We're trying to get a reasonably complete picture of your household and what the individuals who live there like to do,' says Glasgow."
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Inside One of the World's Largest Data Brokers

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  • Contrary to recent reports, data broker Acxiom is not planning to give consumers access to all the information they've collected on us.


    • by clemdoc (624639)
      Are they doing business in the EU? If so, they may have to.
      I can't be bothered to look it up right now, but there was a case of a student from Vienna forcing facebook to give their users full access to whatever information they had collected on them. Impossible to tell of course, whether they did fully comply.
      Still, that might be funny.
  • Have they no decency? Sounds like a bunch of sicko and perverts!
    • by Chrisq (894406)

      Have they no decency? Sounds like a bunch of sicko and perverts!

      On the other hand you do get the bulk discount vouchers for rubber gloves and Vaseline

      • Thanks buddy, now you've got She Don't Use Jelly [] stuck in my head. Since I have to sleep shortly, I'm probably going to have jacked up dreams. Yes, I'm "old" for this, but damnit, I've earned it. In retort, I'll see your Flaming Lips and raise you a Mexican Radio [].

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      I like to block advertisers and data miners.

      How does that compute, motherfuckers?

  • "No need to worry, we have slightly less specific information than people think."
  • Untrue (Score:5, Interesting)

    by evanism (600676) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @11:50PM (#43738219) Journal

    They know everything. Not just the shirt, but how you paid, the brand, how much it was, its size and all the alternatives that were available at the time in the store.

    I worked in a project with them for years and I can tell you they have every last scintilla of every purchase you have EVER made with an EFTPOS or credit card.

    They, like Kang, Know All.

    • Re:Untrue (Score:5, Funny)

      by OhANameWhatName (2688401) on Thursday May 16, 2013 @12:07AM (#43738273)

      I worked in a project with them for years

      Something tells me you're about to get arrested and electro-shocked to erase Acxiom's corporate secrets.

    • Re:Untrue (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Required Snark (1702878) on Thursday May 16, 2013 @12:10AM (#43738283)
      Yes, she's lying her teeth out.

      Recently I needed a car tow on the weekend. It took me about two and a half hours to get home. When I arrived I immediately went to send out email and I was getting targeted adds for used Mercedes cars and auto loans. They don't need to bother implanting a tracking chip. It would be redundant.

    • Re:Untrue (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cultiv8 (1660093) on Thursday May 16, 2013 @12:12AM (#43738297) Homepage
      This. I worked with JP Morgan Chase for a brief stint and they sent us to Acxiom for week-long training on how they do data collection and what we could do with it. One of the stories they shared was how if a product was purchased at a Disney store and that same account had previous purchases for children's toys, then we could correlate that account with an address and send the address an offer for a Disney-branded Visa or Mastercard. If I remember right there were over 500 data points on households, not including transaction histories.
    • by Shotgun (30919)

      Simple logic would tell you that she is lying.

      How can the get any idea of what your household is like, unless they collect the data? You can't.

      How would you determine algorithmically which data is "general" and which data is "specific"? It isn't possible, because there is no acceptable line between general and specific data.

      Ipso facto, they're collecting ALL the data, and her statement is absurd.

  • by OhANameWhatName (2688401) on Thursday May 16, 2013 @12:05AM (#43738265)

    We're trying to get a reasonably complete picture of your household and what the individuals who live there like to do

    I like to have my privacy respected. I've willingly shared this information with Acxiom, but apparently my primary interest isn't valuable for Acxiom to understand. Companies like Acxiom deserve to have their corporate systems pillaged and this data handed out willy nilly to whomever the pillagers associate with .. without recrimination. Because this is PRECISELY how Acxiom operates.

    If our political systems weren't so ridiculously corrupt, Acxiom's board and upper management would have been against the wall long ago. It's about time that companies like Acxiom were targetted by righteous hackers and their corrupt business practices exposed for the entire world to see.

  • Breach of DPA? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday May 16, 2013 @02:51AM (#43738711)
    You are required, by law, to allow access to the data held on an individual in order to check for accuracy and relevance to purpose. If you don't do that, you're in breach of the Data Protection Act.

    Give me access to my data.
    • You might not be covered, given they're a US-based corporation. If there's no office in the UK, you're basically SOL.
      • []

        Boom. I just hope they have offices in Germany too, because those guys are happy to throw their weight around when it comes to consumer data protection.
      • by PPH (736903)

        Yes, but are there customers in the UK?

        The USA isn't the only country capable of reaching outside of its borders to enforce its laws. Whether they've actually got the balls (bollocks) to act is another question. And if the UK files charges and the USA refuses to extradite, just don't travel to the EU. Or fly from Seatte to New York and cross through Canadian airspace.

    • by Xest (935314)

      I was wondering about this too, by Lands End I'm assuming she means the actual place Lands End in the UK? If so then again this seems to be yet another company breaking UK law on data collection and not a thing being done about it.

      It's worth noting that it's not simply a breach of the point in law you say - the right to be able to access this data, but also that as a 3rd party company with whom you have no business then they have absolutely no legal right to be holding this data in the first place. It's tru

      • "Lands End" Is a clothing retailer in the US.

        • by Xest (935314)

          Well hopefully they're just talking about the US market then!

          Well that's a lie, for the sake of Americans hopefully not, but I mean, for their sake and ours, I hope they haven't just openly admitted to breaking the law in the UK.

  • Ingenous claims? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bearhouse (1034238) on Thursday May 16, 2013 @03:49AM (#43738845)

    FTA: "Acxiom data can’t be used for employment background checks, credit verification, or insurance underwriting, she adds, because that would make it a consumer reporting company under Fair Credit Report Act. Companies regulated under the FCRA can’t use that data for marketing purposes."

    Urm, "Chinese walls", anyone? Want to bet that they don't sell that information to other people for doing exactly that?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I can tell you at least one company uses this same sort of purchase data from an Acxiom competitor which correlate to relatively poor credit scores (low-end purchases paid by cash, check or store credit card as an example) in order to send offers with the explicit goal of getting them to sign up for credit. Bad credit scores result in hefty interest and big fees. They tap dance around the FCRA in order to avoid having to deal with compliance and having to fully disclose the data they collect.

      Almost all U.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Thursday May 16, 2013 @03:52AM (#43738851)

    If you cannot tell people exactly what data you have collected about them, you are not allowed to collect that data. Penalties up to 2 years imprisonment apply. (Well, it is Europe, so I doubt anybody has been sent to prison yet for breach of data privacy laws, but still....) And they would also have to delete any and all data on request from the people that data is about. Cannot do it? Sorry, your business Model is criminal.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We're trying to get a reasonably complete picture of your household and what the individuals who live there like to do

    My name is Anonymous Coward. We here in the Coward family like to live our lives knowing companies like yours do not have any information about us other than, of course, the fact that we don't like companies like yours do not have any information about us.

    Now that you know this, please update your database accordingly.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What if you get a UK dual citizenship, can you apply the Data Protection Act VS the US company while being in the US?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I interned at Acxiom during my senior year of undergrad so I thought I'd give another view and share a funny story.

    If I remember correctly, their revenue is broken down roughly like the following:
    60% - data analysis of 3rd party data, even big name tech companies (Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc) will send them data to analyze because its cheaper and/or easier
    30% - data storage, they store 3rd party data on tape in a fire and water safe bunkers (no joke)

    • by kermidge (2221646)

      Oh, man, that is a story scary and funny and instructive at the same time. Hope you've got a better kind of gig now.

  • I wonder if Ariel Castro could have been found by mining this data? Yeah, I know it sucks, but the data is already out there. Maybe it could be put to good use.

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