Saturday 13 April 2013

Want to know how much of your personal info is being bought and sold? Ask Acxiom.

Earlier this week, I told you about an idiot who confessed to murder on the internet. It only took some quick sleuthing by members of the online message board Reddit to cull enough details to figure out his full name, military rank, and place of residence.

And while I can’t emphasize enough how completely irresponsible this fellow was with his personal details, it should make the rest of us wonder. How much information is out there about us?
This is Acxiom. You may not know about them,
but they certainly know about you.
Probably more than you think.

But here’s the good news: Soon, (if you’re American) you will be able to find out exactly how much.

Acxiom, a consumer data broker in the United States will be introducing a service that will allow people to find out exactly how much the company knows about them.

If you’re unfamiliar with data brokers, they’re the guys responsible for all those targeted advertisements you receive. They know your income, where you live, what kind of computer you use, if you’re married, and probably a lot more. Presently, exactly what they know is a mystery to anyone outside of their clients who purchase the data.

However, last March the Federal Trade Commission issued a recommendation that called for legislation requiring data brokers to disclose the information they have to individuals and allow that information to be amended for accuracy or even deleted.

And in the spirit of that recommendation, Acxiom announced that they will do just that.

Emily Steel lays it out in the Financial Times:
For years, the industry has operated behind a veil of secrecy and released few details about the exact information it tracked and how those details were used. Consumer privacy advocates long have demanded that data brokers such as Acxiom, Experian and Datalogix allow individuals to see what information is collected, correct those details, and delete their profiles. No current laws in the U.S. require that data brokers maintain the privacy of individual's data unless they are used for credit, employment, insurance, housing, or other similar purposes.

Is this a silver bullet for personal privacy management? Absolutely not. But it’s certainly a big step forward. When you know just what information is out there, you can take steps to contain it.

Let’s count this as a win.

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