back to article Data broker Acxiom lifts skirt, reveals your private bits

One of the world's largest data brokers, Acxiom, has posted a project that either allows people to correct errors in their data, or turns individuals into mechanical turks working on an unpaid data quality project. Acxiom collects data from a vast range of sources and on-sells in portfolio of products aimed at marketers. The low …

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Anonymous Coward

gigo

A perfect example of the difference between having data and having information.

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Data Customers

I'd be angry, possibly furious, if one of my main vendors of data, purchased at significant cost, came out and said "we've been selling you 100% distilled shit for years". Marketing data is the targeting system for advertising and if you've been aiming at the wrong targets it should come as no surprise that you missed, a lot.

The real costs for the data customers must be huge: Your entire campaign, strategy and collateral hinges on the targeting data being correct and if it isn't your campaign is broken. I know it'll never happen but I'd be seeking to negotiate a lower pricing agreement. Top quality data is worth top dollar. Low quality data isn't worth much or even anything.

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Tell you what, mister

Here's my deal:

1. you show me where you got this data from.

2. I will correct or delete as I see fit.

3. Anything I correct is obviously worth more as it is validated. Every time you sell it, I get paid this premium, not you.

4. If I choose to delete it all, then tough. Oh, and I don't want you starting again.

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Re: Tell you what, mister

Here's my deal:

1. Install AdBlockPlus

2. Never see Ads.

3. Relax while waiting for the internet to implode.

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Re: Tell you what, mister

@Mystic Megabyte

you're missing the bit where this company is seeling broken details about you - whether you personally see adverts on web-pages or not.

If this stuff spills over into credit checking or insurance databases (or, for UK, CRB or whatever that rumour mill is called this week)...

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Unhappy

Clearly the thing to do is make the date *worse* not better.

Did you ask them to collect this data on you?

This perfectly demonstrates the way some internet companies are farmers who "farm" the "herd" for their benefit.

Now Robert E Harvey's approach is intriguing with one slight change. If people cleanse their own data they get a piece of whatever it's charged out for.

It looks like the only way this is going to work is if copyright exists on personal data, and everyone gets charged for using it.

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Pirate

A golden opportunity

Wouldn't it be fun if everyone logged in to the system, and changed their data to complete rubbish? Double points for doing it subtly enough that it's not obvious.

GJC

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Re: A golden opportunity

Just a shot in the dark, but I suspect opening a limited subset of data might be a pilot to see what the signal to intentionally introduced noise ratio looks like.

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Re: A golden opportunity

Boring, but quite possible. Shame.

GJC

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"allows people to correct errors in their data"

What happens if you decide to introduce errors? Salt the data to the point were it's worthless to anyone.

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Credibility deficit

This would be great... assuming there is a good chance they already have your social security number in the unreleased data, all you have to do is log on and change bits of your data. If enough people did it... They database would be inaccurate, and their credibility would suffer... Of course publishing more specifics of the ludicrous information on people's profile would also help to undermine their credibility.

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Anonymous Coward

Par for course

Back in ye olde days of 1998 I was IT director of a company who had dealings with a major data broker who I can't name or the mods will refuse to print it. Anyway, the bottom line was that as far as credit ratings were concerned we would literally have been better off flipping a coin. This is just revealing to the wider public what insiders have known for decades.

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The scary bit

...is that HR departments use these data mongers to do "background" checks on applicants and take the reports they get as factual. HR departments can be pretty scary places. I've been job hunting for some time now and the advertisements I see are poorly written and contain glaring spelling mistakes that should be caught by the most basic spell-checkers. There are stories about people that have researched their profiles from some of the more prominent data collection companies and have tried to get egregiously wrong items removed without any success. While credit reporting bureaus are regulated by laws regarding the accuracy of their reports and the requirement to provide a way for the people to challenge information being held about them, these newer data aggregation firms are not regulated at all. Your best defense is to stay away from signing up for and using "social media" sites, eschewing store loyalty cards, paying cash where you can and not handing out your personal information unless there is a compelling reason to do so. It is also a good idea to find out if your employer is selling your payroll information to a salary information site. Any information gathered will be used against you and you may not ever be told.

What would you do if data collection company has that you were arrested for murder in your file when this never happened? How about grand theft auto? Embezzlement? If a prospective employer was evaluating your resume and was given this information, you will probably never hear back from them and never be told why you were passed over. It is to your advantage that there is very little data in a file about you and an HR department has to evaluate you based on your resume, cover letter and references.

There was a prescient episode of Max Headroom that had a group of people called "blanks" that erased their histories in the overseers master computers and lived off of the net. Only old farts like me will probably remember that.

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Re: The scary bit

@ MachDiamond - while what you say makes sense now, how long will it be until having no digital profile is taken as being as big a warning as having damaging data?

BTW, if a data collection company tells somebody that you were arrested when you never were; surely if that got back to you you could do them for libel? If re tweeting what somebody else said counts, surely an automatic system full of crap counts?

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Re: The scary bit

This has actually happened to me. I got the job so never sued but when I asked to see the background check that two HR ladies were laughing about I saw that I had been arrested in Alabama for theft, grand larceny, skipping out on numerous phone bills and apartment leases, and identity theft. The reason I got the job anyway, and why they were laughing, is that the mugshot was very apparently not me. HR knew this because I had been working as a contractor and they knew what I looked like. How could they get this so wrong when there are actual mug shots of me in the world.

Bonus for me: found out my identity had been stolen.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The scary bit

"BTW, if a data collection company tells somebody that you were arrested when you never were; surely if that got back to you you could do them for libel?"

If they were an individual, sure. A company would just plead "good faith" and point a circle of fingers that go nowhere and the government would file it under "laws companies don't have to obey" along with all that tax stuff.

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bad data and terrible security

Given the range of data that these guys are collecting, and the total lack of real security - DoB and last four of Social Security Number seems to be it, and then no password allowed on the account... you log back in with your email address and last four of SSN

So bad data, visible to pretty much anyone who wants it

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So they rape people for information; want the victims to fix it for free (while pumping yet more information into their system) and don't offer anything at all in the way of incentive?

You really have to wonder about some people.

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Well it's their fault. They were asking for it.

Sadly that's not far from the truth of the arguments used to justify the collection of the data.

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Wonderful

It sounds splendidly secure. How long before bozos begin logging in as the neighbors they can't stand and damaging their information?

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