Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Businesses

What Marketers Think They Know About You and What They Really Do 277

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-don't-even-know-you-anymore dept.
mattydread23 writes "Data broker Acxiom did something a little unusual this week. It launched a service that lets you see the data they've collected on you. CITEworld writer Ron Miller checked it out, and found it to be mostly laughably inaccurate. Among the things they got wrong included his religion, his interests, and the number of kids he has. But worst? It pegged him as a Windows user."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

What Marketers Think They Know About You and What They Really Do

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 05, 2013 @03:08AM (#44763643)

    Thought I'd look at my own data, but when they started asking for the last 4 digits of my SSN I decided I didn't care so much about what they knew about me...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I haven't got an SSN you insensitive clod!

    • by icebike (68054) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @04:32AM (#44763905)

      Exactly.

      I looked at what they were asking for and realized I would be giving them things
      they don't know already. Why would I do that.

      ItsATrap.

      • by aitikin (909209)
        Actually, they almost certainly already had it. Just based on your name and billing address, a legitimate organization which has gone through a proper series of mandated checks can pull up your credit profile, your history, etc. The last 4 of the SSN allow them to find the information if your name was, for example, "John Smith" and you lived in Boston in an apartment complex that had 4 different Smith families in it.
      • by Daetrin (576516) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @09:07AM (#44764699)
        Out of curiosity, i tried putting down my real name, an old address i used to live at, the real last 4 digits of my SSN, and an incorrect birth day.

        It apparently thinks it knows a couple things about me. It thinks it knows how much i make (almost correct.) It thinks i own a couple kinds of credit cards that i don't think i own. It thinks i've made exactly one purchase using those credit cards in the last two years. It thinks that purchase was an online purchase for $80. Notably it can't figure out my political party even though you can easily find my donation records to a prominent political party if you do a search using my real name.

        But impressively it does seem to have realized i used a false birthday! It reports my birthday as actually being on an entirely different and equally wrong day.

        So either this system is brain dead, or there's someone else out there with the same name as me, who's lived in the same place as i did a couple years ago, has the same last 4 SSN digits, but was born several weeks after i was and makes 99% of their purchases with cash.
    • No they're playing a different trick.

      Basically they are saying: the information we have on you is nothing but crap, so please keep using our cookies, and stop questioning our privacy-intruding advertisement business-model.

      In reality, they probably know much more about you than they reveal here.

      • Basically they are saying: the information we have on you is nothing but crap, so please keep using our cookies, and stop questioning our privacy-intruding advertisement business-model.

        I ordered some stuff on Amazon once as a birthday present for my daughter. It was something that she was interested in at that time, but possibly not anymore. Anyway, she isn't going to buy this again, because I bought it for her as a Christmas present. And I'm not going to buy it for myself, because I'm not interested in it and never was. Amazon bombarded me with adverts to things related to this product for years. Absolutely annoying.

        Now if my wife wants anything from Amazon, I buy it. It's all the sam

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by StripedCow (776465)

          It will only be a matter of time until they find clustering algorithms that can separate your "interests".

          Basically it is like you have three clouds of points. One cloud is your interests. One cloud is for your wife, and one cloud is for your child. For a human, it is easy to tell these clouds apart. For a computer, it will soon be easy too.

          • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @06:43AM (#44764161) Journal

            It will only be a matter of time until they find clustering algorithms that can separate your "interests".

            Basically it is like you have three clouds of points. One cloud is your interests. One cloud is for your wife, and one cloud is for your child. For a human, it is easy to tell these clouds apart. For a computer, it will soon be easy too.

            I was told by a retired jeweler in my neighborhood that being able to separate customers' "interests" has been a particularly acute problem in that sector for some time: Obviously, as with any business(especially one built on unnecessary luxury goods) they want to cultivate and flatter their good customers; but they ran into the persistent problem that some of their good customers had wives who did open marketing mail addressed to a household; but had not been the recipients of some or all of the jewelry purchased... That is, of course, awkward for all involved.

          • But what about people who live double lives or have seemingly contradicting interests? The red blooded conservative crossdresser, for example.
        • by nukenerd (172703)
          Gnasher wrote :-

          Now if my wife wants anything from Amazon, I buy it. It's all the same bank account, so it doesn't matter whose card is used. ... Where this is really a violation of privacy is when I ... go to Amazon .. it shows me everything my wife has been looking at, and vice versa.

          I'm not trying to defend Amazon, who are shites, but if you share a bank account with her then she is going to see expenditures you made with it, and if she is anything like my wife, want to know what they were for. That's what you get with a joint account. OTOH, if you were "just looking" and don't want her to know, you'd best look for it elsewhere, or open a different account with Amazon with a different bank card. Personally I have about 15 different credit cards and 5 bank accounts,

    • by Gavagai80 (1275204) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @06:19AM (#44764105) Homepage

      It's not as if it's a trick -- they're very explicit that the purpose of the site is for you to tell them all about yourself so they can sell that info. https://aboutthedata.com/portal [aboutthedata.com] begins "Who are you? If you want to get the best advertising delivered to you, based on your actual interests, start here. Tell us who you are so we can show you the information used to fuel many of the marketing offers you receive from advertisers using Acxiom's digital marketing data."

      As for who enjoys ads so much that they want to take time out of their day to do unpaid work for advertising companies... well I can't imagine.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @06:46AM (#44764175) Journal

        It's not as if it's a trick -- they're very explicit that the purpose of the site is for you to tell them all about yourself so they can sell that info. https://aboutthedata.com/portal [aboutthedata.com] begins "Who are you? If you want to get the best advertising delivered to you, based on your actual interests, start here. Tell us who you are so we can show you the information used to fuel many of the marketing offers you receive from advertisers using Acxiom's digital marketing data."

        As for who enjoys ads so much that they want to take time out of their day to do unpaid work for advertising companies... well I can't imagine.

        The question that occurs to me is "Are those assholes at Acxiom good enough to discern 'corrections' that make the data even less accurate than it was, or 'corrections' made to other peoples' profiles?"

        It'll be a cold day in hell before I volunteer better data to scum like them; but I think that polluting the database would be my good deed for the day, probably my good deed for the month if I could automate it.

    • by fgouget (925644)

      Thought I'd look at my own data, but when they started asking for the last 4 digits of my SSN I decided I didn't care so much about what they knew about me...

      So why not give them bad data? For instance give them four random digits for the SSN. If they prevent you from 'logging in' then it means they have that data already so giving it to them won't change anything. And if they let you through it means they did not have that data and still don't and you still get to see your data, except possibly those fields they would have collated from the SSN.

    • by ggraham412 (1492023) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @09:14AM (#44764743)

      Thought I'd look at my own data, but when they started asking for the last 4 digits of my SSN I decided I didn't care so much about what they knew about me...

      Phishing, anyone? I get the feeling that they don't actually have (or perhaps aren't sure of) my personal information like address, full name, DOB, or last 4 digits of SSN linked to my email address, and are using this as a gimmick to get goobers to add value to their proprietary data for free.

      If they wanted to actually provide information to curious people securely, they could have provided a form that asked for a public email address only, and then emailed a report directly to that address. Surely they can look up your info based on an email address. Scumbags.

  • Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spudnic (32107) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @03:08AM (#44763645)

    And in order to see the data they have about me, I have to give them my name, home address, last four digits of my SSN? Seriously? They're going to make a fortune off of this!

    • by Intropy (2009018) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @03:11AM (#44763659)

      Alright, here's what we know about you:

      Name, physical address, email address, and last four digits of your ssn.

      Gotcha!

    • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 05, 2013 @03:20AM (#44763691)

      Yup, that surprised me as well. You serve ads to my browser, yet you can't identify me without me identifying myself? Fail.

    • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Informative)

      by tlambert (566799) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @03:24AM (#44763707)

      And in order to see the data they have about me, I have to give them my name, home address, last four digits of my SSN? Seriously? They're going to make a fortune off of this!

      Why don't you want collection agencies being able to correlate your social with contact information so they can harass you? Especially collection agencies who buy old debt packages from people who don't keep very good billing records, like most doctors and dentists, and try to collect bills you've already paid because some idiot left a copy of one in the wrong old cardboard box somewhere?

      It's pretty clear that you don't understand the important fact that, when they screw up, you're obligated to pay them again, and you are just a deadbeat.

      Or maybe they intend to monetize stupidity, which has been a pretty standard trick for as long as there has been commerce...

    • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @03:27AM (#44763715)

      And in order to see the data they have about me, I have to give them my name, home address, last four digits of my SSN? Seriously?

      That's about what the credit reporting agencies want from you in order to get your "free" yearly copy of your credit report. I always thought it was particularly convenient for them too.

    • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Informative)

      by CodeBuster (516420) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @03:47AM (#44763791)

      And in order to see the data they have about me, I have to give them my name, home address, last four digits of my SSN? Seriously?

      If you think that the data brokers like Lexis Nexis, Choicepoint and these guys don't already have all of that information and more, you're sadly misinformed. Would it shock to know that all of that information is readily available to just about any business owner or attorney for $50 or less and nothing more than a promise (by them to the data broker) that you said that you wanted to do business with them or are a client of theirs?

      • by cupantae (1304123)

        all of that information is readily available to just about any business owner or attorney for $50 or less

        Is that per person? If it's even $10 per person, GP's point still stands. If they want to collect this data on thousands of people through a broker, that's a serious investment.

      • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Somebody Is Using My (985418) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @10:08AM (#44765263) Homepage

        While data-brokers have my name, address, etc., what they DO NOT have is a 1-to-1 correlation between that data and my PC.

        By using that tool, you are telling them that user Jon Doe can be definitively associated with IP: xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx, Network MAC: DE-AD-BE-EF, cookie RANDOM.TXT, email address:user@gullible.com and a specific browser footprint. Essentially, they can tie together all the data HUMANS use to identify one another with all the ways COMPUTERS on the internet identify each other. Without this, data-brokers can make some assumptions but providing the information on aboutthedata.com solidly confirms that connection

        Just because they have some of the pieces is no reason to give them the rest.

         

    • I have to give them my name, home address ...

      And since they have to ask for all that data, that tells you they know nothing about you and your online presence.

      • by Stewie241 (1035724) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @09:25AM (#44764823)

        Nah. They have to ask verification questions. It's just like when Google called me the other day telling me my GMail account has been hacked into. In order for them to verify who I was, I had to give them my name, my address, two phone numbers, another email address, my mother's maiden name, the credit card number that was registered on my Play account and a list of all the addresses I had lived at in the last five years. I gave them that information so they would know it was really me and then they helped get my account sorted out.

  • Good job (Score:5, Informative)

    by awshidahak (1282256) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @03:08AM (#44763647)
    Great inclusion of the link to the service [aboutthedata.com], samzenpus. I love how I didn't have to hunt for it at all.
    • by BitZtream (692029)

      Yea, nothing like clicking through ad-infested site after ad-infested site because the editors are too lazy to actually edit.

      WTF is the point of people like samzenpus and timothy? We have voting for getting stories promoted to the front page already ...

      I forgot, someone other than timothy has to be the one to post his stupid videos and dear diary entries to the front page.

      • Sorry to break it to you, but many editors at Slashdot have been replaced with scripts over the years, short scripts. Timothy, on the other hand, is a real human, he works for Microsoft.

  • If so, then your Linux systems are working fine! Just think of all the stupid ads they would serve up if they thought you were actually intelligent!

  • Doesn't matter (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Intropy (2009018) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @03:08AM (#44763651)

    They're not _really_ trying to figure out data about who you are because they don't really care. What they care about are what ads are most likely to affect you. That's a clustering problem not an identification problem. And if those clusters happen to have similarities to a well-defined, named demographic category that just helps humans talk about them.

    • by NoKaOi (1415755)

      They're not _really_ trying to figure out data about who you are because they don't really care. What they care about are what ads are most likely to affect you. That's a clustering problem not an identification problem. And if those clusters happen to have similarities to a well-defined, named demographic category that just helps humans talk about them.

      What is the data broker's market? Advertisers (those who purchase ads), not necessarily the advertiser's customers. Their job isn't to sell the advertiser's product. Their job is to sell ad space to advertisers. So the data brokers marketing success doesn't have to come from actually knowing who their advertiser's potential customers are, they only need to convince their advertiser's that they do. If they happen to get it right sometimes then that's just gravy.

  • Give me the link! (Score:5, Informative)

    by bkk_diesel (812298) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @03:10AM (#44763655)

    I had to click through to a third page before getting a link to the relevant website.

    The Acxiom site is found at https://aboutthedata.com/ [aboutthedata.com].

    Privacy policy (FWIW) is here: https://aboutthedata.com/privacy/ [aboutthedata.com]

  • And this is why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @03:28AM (#44763723) Journal
    This is why Google launched Google+, so they could get all the info about you that Facebook got from you freely. It's also why they didn't care that is was a ghost-town after a few weeks, they got all the info they needed.
  • Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alsee (515537) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @03:28AM (#44763725) Homepage

    What marketers know about me:
    He's running AdBlock.

    What marketers think they know:
    Everyone wants to see relevant ads.
    He's running AdBlock because he's annoyed that the ads he's been seeing aren't relevant enough.

    -

    • Re:Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ruir (2709173) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @03:44AM (#44763779)
      Think is the correct word. I don't see any adds at all. In sites like CNN I don't even think of opening video links. If I ever open a video link with ads, I close it. If I am *really* interested into seeing it, I take the time to search it into youtube or google instead of seeing it. If I don't find it, I suck it and don't see it.
      • because you're not getting ads on youtube?
        • Adblock removes youtube ads. Even chrome adblock, surprisingly (chrome forbids youtube downloader extensions, so one would think they'd forbid youtube ad removal extensions).
    • Re:Easy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by raburton (1281780) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @08:21AM (#44764423)

      He's running AdBlock because he's annoyed that the ads he's been seeing aren't relevant enough.

      That seems to be the point they're missing (deliberately I'm sure). I don't want to see ads, but I especially don't want to see relevant ads. I remember during the various stages of banning advertising of smoking in the UK they used to talk about not promoting smoking just brand awareness to get existing smokers to switch to them. This was of course rubbish, and the same is true for most advertising. They aren't trying to get you to buy a product you are already planning to, just from them instead of someone else, they are trying to get you to buy something you don't want or didn't realise you wanted (but were perfectly happy without). If I actually wanted something I would search for it myself, I'm not going to wait till an ad on my favourite website suggests it. So more relevant ads means finding a weakness in you they can exploit to sell you some crap you don't really want.

  • Whats unusual about them asking you for your personal identifiable information for them to update their records, which then in turn they sell to advertiser, debit collectors and credit card companies?

    Are you really so stupid as to think this isn't benefiting them in multiple ways? I don't give this information to any random person off the street, why the hell would I give it to the exact people I don't want to have it?

    • why the hell would I give it to the exact people I don't want to have it?

      They already have the minimum biographical info that they're asking for, that's public information unless you're in the witness protection program. What they don't have is the other related data which they're asking you to update for them. Now of course you wouldn't want to correct their inaccurate records of your other data, but it's nice to see that all of the disinformation and database poisoning is having its intended effects.

  • by jonwil (467024) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @03:39AM (#44763771)

    Might be interesting to see what this data mob has on me and how accurate it is...

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @04:09AM (#44763845)

    I'm a male or female or a cat who makes between $21,000 and $250,000 dollars

    I'm between 16 and 79.

    I apparently like boobs.

    I'm either unemployed, self employed or work for others as a manager or employee.

    I may have good credit.

  • by L. J. Beauregard (111334) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @04:13AM (#44763859)

    If they only asked for a name, anyone including your psycho ex-girlfriend could get this information.

    • If they only asked for a name, anyone including your psycho ex-girlfriend could get this information.

      Your psycho ex-girlfriend probably already has your social security number. She had plenty of opportunity to get it, after all.

    • by Maow (620678)

      (posting to undo accidental troll moderation)

  • by adstopshop (3043211) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @04:15AM (#44763869)
    Interesting article though. Nowadays, marketers think they know everything about everything but that's not true as this article proves it. I am a marketer as well and I realize that the more I read about the marketing as discipline, the more I realize I don't know almost anything about it.
  • US only makes it very dull.

  • so long as we know what mailbox to stuff, what phone number to ring, the marketing can continue until accuracy improves. It could be argued that any information about a potential customer at the onset of marketing is irrelevant so long as you accurately determine the operating system being used and eventually, the browser.

    Our customers, that is other major corporations, are more interested in our products browsing habits. Browser tracking, third party cookies and history snooping will quickly and accu
  • by 50000BTU_barbecue (588132) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @06:25AM (#44764127) Homepage Journal
    Could it be these "data miners" are just snake oil voodoo salesmen that are selling a comforting vision to companies? Has anyone ever done any double-blind studies to determine if companies that use this data actually benefit from it? Or is it just part of the modern cult of corporate "wisdom" that must never be questioned?

    Or is one wrong data point in what is essentially demographic data irrelevant? Sort of like one athlete with an "obese" BMI doesn't invalidate the concept of BMI on the whole?

  • Only a glimpse (Score:5, Informative)

    by rgrbrny (857597) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @07:22AM (#44764259)
    So, I read the article that the article links to--spare me the "you must be new here jokes"--and found this interesting bit:

    Although the site shows visitors a few facts that some might consider sensitive, like race and ethnicity, it initially omits, at least in the version I saw, intimate references — like “gambling,” “senior needs,” “smoker in the household” and “adult with wealthy parent” — that Acxiom markets to corporate clients but that might discomfit consumers if they knew they were for sale.

    So Axciom's transparency portal isn't so transparent at all...

  • But perhaps what I found most amusing was that it indicated my OS of choice was Windows. I haven't owned a Windows computer in a long time.

    Well, he couldn't be a Linux user, since the site doesn't work in Linux (at least not with Fedora 19 and Firefox 23). You see a dot animation in the center of the screen, but the full page never loads. It works fine running the same browser in Windows XP.

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @07:51AM (#44764341) Journal

    At least the first 6 posts here said "OMG, they wanted all this information to show me my data!"...

    Well, geniuses, considering that both Miller's article and the original NY Times article said "....Having filled out an identity verification form that asked for his name, birth date, address and the last four digits of his Social Security number..." personally, I wasn't terribly surprised that they asked for my name, birth date, address and the last four digits of my Social Security number.

    Secondly, while I certainly agree that whatever you put into that form ends up going into their database as well, I'd like to pose a stupid question: how ELSE are they going to identify the person requesting the data? I mean, if all I had to put in was my name, then ANYONE could get the data they're about to show me, right? Personally, I strongly suspect that this is more to protect their assets from competitive gathering (after all, data is their business), but one could charitably interpret that this is a REASONABLE step to keep the information they have away from casually-prying eyes that are not the person indicated.

    FWIW, it said my information was invalid, and I'd have to be manually identified (and this is all with absolutely correct entries). The second time I tried, it said there's already a user with that email. So, clearly a beta.

    And a note to Ron: with a 5-minute scan of your "about Ron Miller" and a listing of articles, I can tell your probable politics - you're an Apple consumer, after all. FYI the fact that you *assert* you don't affiliate with a party also tells me volumes; it doesn't ipso facto mean that you don't in FACT align with a given party, either. And re your question, I guess I'd take the opposite view: while I know by correcting the information, I'm enhancing the value of their product, I'm going to get ads all the time anyway so I'd rather they be relevant.

    • by JBHarris (890771)
      I agree completely. They already know these things. I can pull a 'soft' credit report on anyone with all that information on it. Given a budget of $10k, I could bulk pull credit reports for everyone within a specific geographic region that has all that info on it. Pretending you are special and they need you to put in that information to "complete" their records is asinine tin foil hattery. If you think they needed YOU to come along and attach an email address to the last 4 of your social...well...sorry, yo
    • "Secondly, while I certainly agree that whatever you put into that form ends up going into their database as well, I'd like to pose a stupid question: how ELSE are they going to identify the person requesting the data?"

      OK Sparky, I'll tell you. Start by allowing the user to enter any given piece. Search. If multiple results, inform user they must provide further info. Repeat.

      In this manner, the user is in control of how much they feel comfortable giving just to see what info this particular entity
  • by Trax3001BBS (2368736) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @07:51AM (#44764343) Homepage Journal

    http://www.networkadvertising.org/choices/#completed [networkadvertising.org] give you the ablity to opt out of data collection but there's a catch,
    you have to keep your cookies.

    This site has changed since I last visited (years?), it used to have a large list of companies you could select to opt out from.
    Now it just reads your cookies, 33 companies are listed that "honor" your opt-outs.

    I use a rather large HOSTS file and delete my cookies when my browser closes, so this site does me little good.
    my results: "These 0 member companies have enabled Online Behavioral Ads for this web browser."

    Posted in case someone else can make use of it.

  • I looked for and couldn't find anything about my religion (since the author says they had his wrong.)

    If you think you're giving something away by giving them the initial information, you're sadly naive.

    I do hope the site is truthful because the data they have on me was way wrong. Since it says we're hopelessly in hock up to our eyeballs and upside down on our mortgage (we're neither), I left it alone hoping that misinformation might get a few marketers to look elsewhere for someone with some spare money to

  • by gagol (583737)
    Apparently they dont give a dang about non-us netizrns.
  • by dbitter1 (411864) <(su.r-serovinrac) (ta) (todhsals)> on Thursday September 05, 2013 @09:48AM (#44765069)

    Did anybody who RTFA read this WITHOUT the elipsis?

    I haven't owned a Windows computer in a long time ... we are not interested in children's items.

  • by plopez (54068) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @09:50AM (#44765095) Journal

    Once a data stream becomes polluted, it is almost impossible to clean up. False information continually circulates between sources and companies often reinfecting data that were scrubbed. All the users of "big data" and "analytics" do not seem to grasp that concept, blindly trusting what they find, a group of entities which includes security agencies.

    This is why database engines which produce "eventual consistency", such as MongoDB, enrage me. They are almost guaranteeing a polluted data stream. Or maybe I just do not get it.

  • by sgt_doom (655561) on Thursday September 05, 2013 @01:09PM (#44767055)
    This is sooo very obvious it is almost not worthy of comment. Obviously a honeypot posting.

    Furthermore, the point is most definitely how inaccurate their information may be, as they use it for employment screening, etc., and this particular company has long had congtracts with DHS, and the intel community.

Man must shape his tools lest they shape him. -- Arthur R. Miller

Working...