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This Company Knows 1,500 Things About You

Your income, religion, health and habits are all on a server — and up for sale

By Rich_Maloof Jun 19, 2012 2:46PM

Photo: Bloomberg/Bloomberg/Getty ImagesSo tell me, what color are your undies? You might as well share with all of us. The intel is out there already, having been collected on a computer server in Little Rock, Arkansas, and made available to any and every retailer in the undies industry.

It sounds ridiculous, sure, but when you get a coupon in the mail for light pink tanga briefs with lace fringe and you’re wondering, How did they know I like these??, remember what we said.

The business of consumer espionage — they call it database marketing — is silently expanding, and a company called Acxiom is one of the industry’s top spies. These guys know far more about you and your family than an online vendor learns by placing cookies in your browser. With 1,500 data points per person on 500 million individuals, Acxiom has more info than your best friend does. According to NYT, they’ve been collecting offline and online information for the past forty years, covering everything from your religion, voter profile, income, debt, ethnicity, and investing habits to your favorite veggies, pet foods, TV shows, and house plants.

Data brokers like Acxiom and Epsilon say all’s well (or did they say Orwellian?) to develop a “360-degree view” on individuals because the master plan is to cater to consumers, but from this end it feels a lot more like stalking. The databasers are collecting and selling our info faster than we can make laws to protect ourselves. We’re also being profiled — racially, socio-economically, and otherwise — based on information over which we have no control. You may be rated as a high-value prospect, in which case marketers will be eager to bombard you with marketing offers and discounts; or you might be rated low-value, in which case they have a lovely term for you: “waste.”

Acxiom says it allows consumers to access and correct information about themselves “when appropriate,” though it’s about as simple as a tax return. The convoluted process concludes with the requirement to snail-mail them a $5 check — because they can cull 50 trillion data transactions per year, but they can’t accept PayPal.

Databrokering is a billion-dollar biz, and they don’t want you to know what they know about you. But listen, don’t be worried about privacy. They’re only mining and refining these fantastically detailed profiles for your own convenience. Remember the teenaged girl whose dad learned she was pregnant only after Target had figured it out? The superstore knew her super well. We like to feel we’re pretty well safeguarded and independent, but do you really think stores like that can’t typecast you, find you, and direct products to you? They called it Target, fer cryin’ out loud. And they know what color your undies are.

Photo: Bloomberg/Bloomberg/Getty Images

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39Comments
Jun 20, 2012 2:26PM
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The fact that anyone would ascribe this hideous practice to a particular political figure or legislation not related to this practice is a sign of the ignorance among us. It is more a symptom of commercial greed and a lack of federal legislation protecting our individual right to privacy. Those who insist that government should not be involved with such legislation are complicit in that these types of commercial vultures will certainly not police themselves, as we see here.
Jun 20, 2012 1:46PM
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Just one of the reasons I don't fill out questioners. 
Jun 20, 2012 1:36PM
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Well, the way i see it is we all took for granted our civil liberties and let all these companys have the upper hand. IT'S JUST BUSINESS right? privacy is no longer. not at work, on the beach, at home, or for thet matter anywhere else in this world. think of every camers that it on nearly every street corner. and think again if you think you are not recorded for some reason other than just for you're own safety ect... Corporate America owns you and the government who bolsters it. Who by the way we all pay for as taxpayers. No harm no foul? Think again folks. This type of thing has happened in the past. This is just the start ! Beware !

Jun 20, 2012 1:13PM
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I agree that any information they have should be made available without charge and with minimal due process to the person whose personal information they have. 
Jun 20, 2012 12:15PM
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This should be illegal, especially if one has to pay to find out what informaiton has been collected on that person!
Jun 20, 2012 10:52AM
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Everybody overload their emails.....These cowards hide behind a contact form...they do not even leave their email address available........crooks !!!! This should and I thought was illegal.........had to break up address, MSN considers links a violation of user agreement.

Hypocrites..............

 

Acxiom = www.  acxiom . com / contact - us /

Epsilon = www.  epsilon . com / contact - us / 

Jun 20, 2012 9:19AM
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Do like I do and make a "fake life". Whenever you sign up for a shopper card, or  take a survey just use a honeypot (a dummy account) email or address to an abandoned house. Hell don't even use your real name. 
These companies aren't like the government or anything. You won't go to jail for using false info and you still get your discounts without the spam or junk mail. If you want to actually get solicitation from a certain company use your real info  that way you have a choice. 

Jun 20, 2012 5:36AM
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"Buffaloll  We need one of our comments to go Viral"

 

Be careful what ya wish for,  Remember all those folks that wished for change and as one sheep went, all sheep went. You know what that got all of us.

Before  November I would not be surprised to see Marshal Law enacted over some trumped up crap.  I was right about the immigration votes he is going after but I pray I'm wrong about this.  Everybody CYA

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