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Monday, April 25, 2011

They Have 750 Billion Records On You. Have You Even Heard Of Them?

Acxiom official website

With its headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas Acxiom is one of the biggest companies you may have never heard of. In this article I will briefly explain you why it's definitely worth for you to learn a little bit more about this company. I'll deliberately omit some useless facts about number of employees, annual turnover and so on. It's enough for you to know that these are huge figures with no doubt.

To start off I will mention that Acxiom is a data aggregation business. The euphemism means that their main purpose is to obtain as much data as possible from as many people as they can. Since the the company operates in 60 countries around the world, they collect and compile data about their residents. One thing is that these people have given away their sensitive personal information usually without getting anything in exchange, but the other is that some of them were unaware that the their data will be aggregated into Acxiom database. Just think if you have ever done any of these things:

  • bought a magazine subscription
  • registered an account for any electronic services
  • filled in an online survey
  • took part in some prize giveaway(i.e. Free iPad Giveaway)
  • given away your details in any other way and neglected to read privacy policy

An example of online prize giveaway

In case you have, the probability of some data aggregation company possessing your data is extremely high. Acxiom and other similar companies cooperate closely to merge information collected from third party companies. Other methods involve buying large amounts of data from credit card issuers, retail banking companies, car manufacturers, brokerage firms, insurance and real estate companies, online retailers as well as pharmacies. They work with around 60-70% of the biggest companies in these industries. Just try to think of one single piece of information they may not know have. They know your name, address, previous address, marriage status, cell phone, things you prefer, drugs you take, financial situation(credit history, earnings), your car preferences as well as VINs. Using their software they can easily associate you with your family members in their databases.

Since it's the money that rule the world, it will be no difficult to think of potential use of such sensitive data. Each day they serve 350 millions customers around the world with their databases. Some of the customers need background checks, some of them need to reverse cell phone numbers but most of their customers demand highly targeted contact information which Acxiom surely can provide. They can quickly find millions of people who could be potentially interested in buying shiny tyres to their Chevrolet who live in Kentucky.

How To Opt Out From Such Databases?
In theory the procedure is fairly simple, you just have to fill in a simple questionnaire and send them to a data aggregation company. It is nothing surprising that such firms try to discourage consumers from opting out and it is proven by experts.
Opting out from Acxiom
If you want to opt out from all the data brokers, you should visit Privacy Alerts who created a full list of opt out forms.

How To Avoid Giving Out Your Personal Information?
The first and the most important thing in here is a Privacy Policy of the company which demands personal information from you. You don't have to read the whole Privacy Policy document carefully, just skim read and try to find a similar clause:

We may sell, brand or share your personal information that you supply to us with other 3rd party businesses [...]
Source: *
This is not an Acxiom operated website.

If you find something like this, you can be sure that your personal information will be sold to 3rd parties. However, if you can't find anything like this, I strongly advice you to read the Privacy Policy again, but this time do it thoroughly. I know this no fun, but as long as your privacy is concerned you should be very careful.



Anonymous said...

I have taken part in more than twenty sweepstakes like this, but I never won. I'm sure there are no prizes

Alicia said...

Maybe you just have bad luck?

Anonymous said...

It's nothing like this, I believe that somebody must have sold my information

Carlos t said...

This is ridiculous. Most of the people don't realize that their data is being traded

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