Marketers need to know a lot about you in order to tailor online ads toward your interests. If you've ever wondered just how much they have on you, you may be in luck: Acxiom, one of the largest data harvesters around, is opening up its trove of details to allow individuals to see what it knows about them. According to the New York Times, that information can include details on race, gender, occupation, ownership of homes, land, and vehicles, an estimated household income, what you like to buy, and what you like to do.
Acxiom will give you details, but only if you give some first
That may be an unsettling amount of detail, but in what The Wall Street Journal says is an industry first, Acxiom is starting to allow consumers to opt out of its tracking. You'll also be able to correct Acxiom's details in some cases, which could make opening up its database somewhat of a ploy toward gathering more data. At first glance, it's just that too: logging in requires handing over your first and last name, your home address, your date of birth, your email address, and the last four digits of your social security number.
All of that is meant to confirm that you are who you really say you are, so that Acxiom isn't giving out your information to anyone it shouldn't. That may be a comfort when it comes to protecting that data, but not for when it comes to checking out what's in there. Opting out is a simpler process, at least: Acxiom just adds a cookie to your browser that it says will make it stop collecting and sharing your data. There's no signing up required, but you will have to reacquire the cookie on every new browser that you use.
The move comes on the back of increased attention toward the practices of data brokers at large. As one of the biggest players, Acxiom seems hopeful to either shake would-be regulators off its back or to steer their actions by opening up to consumers. "We are not going to get anywhere by hiding," Acxiom CEO Scott Howe tells the Times. "You have to make things visible." Howe says that if regulation does come, he'd rather that Acxiom be seen as a good example in the industry. "You may be surprised to know that we are in favor of heightened industry regulation, but we want to make sure we have a voice in the process."
"You have to make things visible."
Acxiom is apparently holding out certain, sensitive details, however, so as not to upset consumers. The Times reports that derived data about smoking habits, penchants for gambling, age-related needs, or having wealthy relatives may be left out because they aren't considered part of each person's "core" details. Those details do make up what Acxiom sells to clients though. According to the Journal, those full details go at a rate of about $0.0005 per person per sale.
All of the information is available through a new website called About The Data, which launches in an open beta today. It's been in development for two years now, the Journal reports, and has been rumored a number of times in the interim. The company has remained alternately mum and coy about the rumored plans, but the site is now finally live along with promises that it could even expand down the road. Acxiom couldn't be reached for comment by press time, but in a statement, Howe says that his company has long pushed for responsible shepherding of consumer data. He also believes that it's necessary to form a direct relationship with consumers, and this new website, he says, is a sign that "we're now taking our first step."