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Marketers know a great deal of detailed information about consumers. Most consumers don’t know this. And they don’t know how detailed this information actually is. Acxiom has set up a website where people can check all the data gathered about them. And for people who don’t like having their data mined, they can opt out or use a personal VPN to help maintain online privacy.
If you walked into a store and a member of the sales staff asked you to fill out a form indicating details of your lifestyle, would you willingly give that out? Recent surveys conducted indicate that the majority of people, about 86%, would not. Yet marketers that sell advertising to these stores very likely know your name, age, address, house size, hobbies, shopping preferences, and more, without your knowledge or consent.
The Acxiom Corporation is a large marketing technology company that has recently decided to be more open about the information that they have stored on consumers. Over the past few years, Acxiom has been gathering intimate details on the household makeup, shopping preferences, financial means, and leisure activities of adult consumers in the United States. Acxiom has been one of the most prolific and secretive collectors of consumer information.
Acxiom is an industry leader in data brokerage. The company makes about a billion dollars a year collecting, storing, analyzing and selling consumer data to other companies. This data is used for the purpose of marketing goods and services. Acxiom clients include car companies, insurance companies, department stores, banks, and credit card companies.
Targeting valuable customers and identifying potential customers is the aim of this type of marketing. Using the data that Acxiom gathers, people are classified into socioeconomic groups by a proprietary classification system. Such segmentation is a danger to consumers because it encourages discrimination with regard to customer service and predatory lending practices, for example.
The recent hype over Internet privacy has prompted one marketing company to change the way they handle data mining. Their new public relations strategy will not reveal a complete account of the data they have on each consumer, but it will for the first time allow people to get an idea of how much information companies like Acxiom collect and store.
AboutheData.com is Acxiom’s website where consumers can what data the company has on them. The website includes personal details like marital status, children, education level, home ownership and value, mortgage and property size, vehicle ownership details, economic status, investment portfolio value, product purchase details, household interests and activities. On the website, people can see where the data came from so they can distinguish between them. Sources revealed by Acxiom include warranty registrations, public records, and surveys joined. Consumers can also correct data, suppress data elements, or to opt out of data collection and storage. The website additionally provides information on how this data is used to create marketing profiles that allow businesses to execute targeted marketing campaigns.
Targeted campaigns are what make personalized ads possible. When Internet users see advertisements for products that they are interested in, they can be sure that a marketing profile of them has been created. Some people enjoyed seeing appropriate ads, but the majority of people are not comfortable with the idea of being profiled in such an intimate way without their approval. Information in public records cannot really be kept secret, but it is not the information itself that troubles consumers as much as where the information comes from. News of websites that track users has made them think about how their data is being spread around the Internet. They also generally feel uncomfortable about being profiled for the benefit of product sales.
Personal VPN Protection
While Acxiom’s effort to be more open about the data they are collecting and sharing, some people are still not pleased with the situation. Not only is their data being distributed to a variety of businesses, but the practice of data mining itself puts them at greater risk of scams and theft. The regulation of data brokerage companies has been discussed, but people meantime need a way to shield themselves from the invasive data collection. VPN services have long been used to help protect against online threats, and they can be of use against this privacy threat as well.
A personal VPN cannot stop websites from saving the data that people enter. But it can stop invasive data gathering by encrypting data and Internet traffic. It can also prevent the collection of data from IP addresses and prevent user tracking by providing an alternate IP address for web surfing and other online activities. Combined with careful consideration when sharing information online, a personal VPN can secure user privacy by preventing unscrupulous entities from taking and selling valuable personal data.