Technology

A Data Broker Offers a Peek Behind the Curtain

It can be disconcerting to learn what, not to mention how much, marketers know about us. Consider a consumer like Scott E Howe.

The Acxiom Corporation, a marketing technology company that has amassed details on the household make-up, financial means, shopping preferences and leisure pursuits of a majority of adults in the United States, knows that Mr Howe is 45, married with children, the owner of a house in the 2,500-square-foot range, and is interested, among other things, in tennis, domestic travel, cooking, crafts, sweepstakes and contests. Those intimate details, Mr Howe says, are entirely accurate.

I am crazy about that stuff, he says of the sweepstakes and contests.

Mr Howe is one of the first Americans to get a detailed glimpse of his own marketing profile because he happens to be the chief executive of Acxiom. But most consumers never learn the specific pieces of information that have been compiled about them by marketers.

That is about to change. Acxiom, one of the most secretive and prolific collectors of consumer information, is embarking on a novel public relations strategy: openness. On Wednesday, it plans to unveil a free Web site where United States consumers can view some of the information the company has collected about them, just as Mr Howe did.

The data on the site, called AbouttheData.com, includes biographical facts, like education level, marital status and number of children in a household; homeownership status, including mortgage amount and property size; vehicle details, like the make, model and year; and economic data, like whether a household member is an active investor with a portfolio greater than $150,000. Also available will be the consumer’s recent purchase categories, like plus-size clothing or sports products; and household interests like golf, dogs, text-messaging, cholesterol-related products or charities.

Each entry comes with an icon that visitors can click to learn about the sources behind the data — whether self-reported consumer surveys, warranty registrations or public records like voter files. The program also lets people correct or suppress individual data elements, or to opt out entirely of having Acxiom collect and store marketing data about them — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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