Feeds

Data broker Acxiom lifts skirt, reveals your private bits

Company considered largest holder of consumer data crowdsources corrections

The essential guide to IT transformation

One of the world's largest data brokers, Acxiom, has posted a project that either allows people to correct errors in their data, or turns individuals into mechanical turks working on an unpaid data quality project.

Acxiom collects data from a vast range of sources and on-sells in portfolio of products aimed at marketers. The low-profile company's critics describe it as a cynical hoarder of personal data, a charge the company resists.

It does, however, admit it has a problem with CEO and President Scott Howe writing last Friday that "Companies like ours haven’t historically done a good job of educating people on what we do with data about them. Largely because of that, misperceptions abound."

Acxiom' answer is a new site, AboutTheData.com that lets Americans look up and correct data themselves, but only after a detailed sign-on process whose collection includes the last four digits of their social security number.

Howe promises that sign-on data is not used for marketing purposes, even if the rest of the data is only there for that reason.

That data has now sparked controversy for a different reason: it's rubbish.

As Forbes reports, Acxiom's data has qualities that will be depressingly familiar to any database administrator: it's full of errors that range from the minor to the hilarious.

The Forbes article notes that in a small sample of individuals looking at their dossiers, errors ranged from nationality, household income, purchase habits, marital status, number of children – pretty much everything. As Penn State professor Adam D Smith said, “the data they had on me stank”.

As is noted by one of the Forbes interviewees, the service also means punters will be donating their time and effort to correcting datasets held by one of the world's largest data brokers. The company is also criticised for opening only a couple of dozen of the hundreds of data points it holds on individuals.

AboutTheData also lets visitors install an opt-out cookie that will block advertising targeting based on Acxiom's brokered data. It won't block the ads: the company warns the result will merely be that someone with the no-track cookie installed will merely receive “generic” advertising instead. Since the howlers in its dataset identified a Georgian biology and anatomy teacher outed as a buyer of plus-size lingerie, the generic option would probably be an improvement. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?