Feeds

Data broker Acxiom lifts skirt, reveals your private bits

Company considered largest holder of consumer data crowdsources corrections

Boost IT visibility and business value

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. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft: We plan to CLEAN UP this here Windows Store town
Paid-for apps that provide free downloads? Really
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
Who needs hackers? 'Password1' opens a third of all biz doors
GPU-powered pen test yields more bad news about defences and passwords
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Hear ye, young cyber warriors of the realm: GCHQ wants you
Get involved, get a job and then never discuss work ever again
Chinese hackers spied on investigators of Flight MH370 - report
Classified data on flight's disappearance pinched
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
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?