Have you ever heard of a company called Acxiom? If you’re like most Americans, probably not. But while you may not know much about Acxiom, they sure know a lot about you.
Acxiom knows more about you than the IRS, FBI, Facebook, and Google. It’s likely that they know your age, race, sex, marital status, education background, political leanings, household income, and much more.
Forrester Research once said Acxiom — headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas — “demonstrated surprising nimbleness in modernizing its offering and arguably leads the industry with its digital solutions,” but what does this $1.15 billion-a-year company do behind the scenes?
Mining Information about You
Acxiom compiles publicly held information on individual consumers, then sells it to companies that want this information for marketing purposes.
For example, an online retailer that wants to sell its best customers additional products could buy details about their social media and mobile habits from Acxiom to figure out more efficient ways to market to them.
Acxiom has 2,300 servers processing 50 trillion transactions per year. They have information on over 500-million consumers — and all of this is perfectly legal.
The Dark Side of Database Marketing
While it might be legal, many consumer privacy advocates are worried that current laws do not adequately protect the public. Sensitive health and financial information is being collected and sold by companies most consumers have never heard of.
Further, companies that mine consumer data are attractive targets for hackers. Last year, another large database marketing firm, Epsilon, experienced a major security breach that exposed millions of private email addresses.
Unlike consumer-reporting agencies, database marketers do not have to disclose their reports to consumers to allow them to correct errors. Individuals are not given the chance to know what information is being collected about them and sold to the highest bidder.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
This may all soon change. Recently, the FTC released a report which called for better consumer access to personal data held by database marketers.
The FTC also recommended that brokers publicly identify themselves and describe how they collect and sell personal information. Other possible regulations include allowing consumers to opt out of being tracked, both online and offline.
This is a step in the right direction, but so far no legislation has been passed to regulate what database marketers can and can’t do. Right now, they have license to buy and sell information about us as they see fit.
If you are curious and want a copy of your Acxiom profile — or simply want to opt out of the Acxiom database — check out Axciom’s opt-out request form, read its consumer info page on opting out, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call them at 1-877-774-2094.