back to article Experian Audience Engine knows almost as much about you as Google

We have grown so used to credit reference giants like Experian knowing almost as much about us as Google, but unlike Google, they put this information up for sale. This is perhaps why we have forgotten that Experian could form the basis of one of the most powerful personal intelligence systems in the world. And that it is a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    so Cash is king then?

    I'm so glad that experion (or google for that matter) does not know that I bought a packet of choc biccies with the rest on my groceries on Saturday. I paid cash and didn't use a loyalty card.

    Perhaps this is one are where something like apple Pay would interrupt the data slurping?

    anon for blindingly obvious reasons.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: so Cash is king then?

      Perhaps this is one are where something like apple Pay?

      How? Ok may not know that you buoght a Big Mac and fries on Saturday after , but they know you went to McDonalds and spent £5.99.

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: so Cash is king then?

      No, Cash is The Man In Black. Elvis is the King.

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: so Cash is king then?

      Nope.

      Amazon and Paypal are king.

      Experian and other carder information thieves get info only when you do a direct purchase. If you do a purchase through a marketplace they only get the info: "bought from Amazon" or "paid via PayPal".

      So you can (and probably should) chose your poison. Funnily enough Bezos is actually not particularly forthcoming in terms of selling your data to every scumbag marketeer on the planet. Sure, Amazon uses it itself, but that use is relatively harmless compared to carders' data sales. You are not likely to be targeted for mortgage, insurance, double glazing and other typical "legitimate" scams based on that. PayPal is slightly more forthcoming with its data, but once again as both of them are actual payment processors they funnily enough (due to different liabilities) sell less of the data they have on you than Experian.

    4. asdf Silver badge

      Re: so Cash is king then?

      This is a good starting point - http://www.stopdatamining.me/opt-out-list/

  2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Adjusted wording...

    "... if you search on it for a lawnmower and went ahead and bought a lawn mower on-line, tracking its delivery, then all the Google ads from then on send you lawnmower prices for about six months."

    They're a bit thick.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Adjusted wording...

      "then all the Google ads from then on send you lawnmower prices for about six months"

      What ads?

    2. wikkity

      Re: They're a bit thick.

      I noticed this when I was looking to book a hotel, however a few days after the ads were orientated towards what to do at the resort I ended up booking.

  3. Dan 55 Silver badge

    "you are bombarded with motorbike insurance advertising on every platform you go to"

    Not really, just sign up to the mail and telephone preference services and don't log into Google while you browse. If advertisers are legit enough to be buying this info from Experian, they're legit enough to play by the rules.

    When we get tailored adverts just for us on cable or broadband TV, then we might have to think again, until then...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "you are bombarded with motorbike insurance advertising on every platform you go to"

      Not really, just sign up to the mail and telephone preference services

      The participation in these is subject to voluntary self-enforcement by the industry. That probably should not warrant any other comments.

      As far as the junk mail - ignore it, systematically click "no offers" on any preferences and it will recede by itself in 2-3 years time.

      As far as phone calls, draw BIG effigy of a middle finger on a cardboard and show it to BT. Moving off-BT to a SIP phone provider guarantees you the following:

      You are now in real "preference" land. I really do not care where does BT leak its phone numbers to scumbags, but as long as you are on a BT line - you will get phone calls no matter in how many "no call" services you enroll (and pay for). Cannot really say about Virgin and others, but I would not be surprised if they are no different as BT wholesale runs BT phones.

      The root cause is probably that the bulk rates call out scumbags buy have a significantly lower cost to BT numbers than to a 3rd party SIP provider which charges them the standard interconnect rate with no discounts. As a result any calls to non-BT blocks are firmly at the end of the queue (if in the queue in the first place)

      I often get asked - why do I run my own PBX on a SIP line (especially when I used to work from home for BT - there was a point where my boss had the idea of administrative enforcement to take a company phone line). The absence of scumbag calls by itself is frankly a sufficient reason. So no f*** voice service from BT in my house. Ever.

      1. K Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: "you are bombarded with motorbike insurance advertising on every platform you go to"

        "So no f*** voice service from BT in my house. Ever."

        I've not received a nuisance call for more than 10 years.. amazing what unplugging the handset can do..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "you are bombarded with motorbike insurance advertising on every platform you go to"

          The abovementioned technique of un-BT-eing myself has served me too. Three months and counting... no spam calls who would have thought?

          ...

          Another three months and I might feel the first first withdrawal symptoms. Not.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "you are bombarded with motorbike insurance advertising on every platform you go to"

          Answer machine, first brief message in Welsh. Calls stop in weeks.

          1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

            Re: "you are bombarded with motorbike insurance advertising on every platform you go to"

            Sadly the answering machine (no mater what language) won't stop the pre-recorded spam calls.

            "Listen to thie important announcement.... "

            F**k Y**

            If I could get hold of the person or persons responsible for them, I'd kicke the where it really hurts just for wasting my time.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Meh

        Re: "you are bombarded with motorbike insurance advertising on every platform you go to"

        I've never had a spam call on my BT line.

        Just saying for balance.

    2. ratfox Silver badge

      Re: "you are bombarded with motorbike insurance advertising on every platform you go to"

      If advertisers are legit enough to be buying this info from Experian, they're legit enough to play by the rules.

      Are you suggesting you are fine with companies aggregating your private info as long as they sell it to whoever is willing to pay?

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: "you are bombarded with motorbike insurance advertising on every platform you go to"

        Are you suggesting you are fine with companies aggregating your private info as long as they sell it to whoever is willing to pay?

        Not particularly, but I was talking about the being bombarded by advertising bit and stopping it.

    3. The Boojum

      Re: "you are bombarded with motorbike insurance advertising on every platform you go to"

      Oh, bless him!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder how this sits with uk legislation - specifically "An individual is entitled at any time by notice in writing to a data controller to require the data controller at the end of such period as is reasonable in the circumstances to cease, or not to begin, processing for the purposes of direct marketing personal data in respect of which he is the data subject."

    Its OUR data NOT THEIRS!

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      From the article: Experian Marketing Services has come out with a US audience management platform. UK legislation is therefore irrelevant.

      I doubt you'd see a similar service in the UK except on an opt-in basis - not that it would be much of an obstacle given the propensity of the British public to take sweeties from strangers.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "I doubt you'd see a similar service in the UK except on an opt-in basis"

        In that case, given the way the likes of Experian rule the roost, you'd have to stick to cash anyway? Bank account? Cards? Hire purchase? Mortgage? No chance.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Former Experian developer here

      I used to work for Experian and I was shocked how much data they have on every person and household in the UK. They know far more about you than Google. Information from many different sources is collated to build up a detailed picture. Many companies and organisations contribute data to Experian and also pay for data to be analysed and help with strategic decision making such as where is the optimum location to build a new (well known) burger chain restaurant, to who to target with cold call sales, junk mail etc to get the best return on marketing / advertising. Experian knows how much many people earn, where they work, where they live, their hobbies and interests, political persuasion, the car they drive and their financial aspirations regarding houses and the areas they are likely to move to and the type of schooling for their kids etc. By analysing town centres, office use etc they are able to predict the best location to open various types of stores in the town and what the expected turnover of those stores will be. They can calculate the foot fall trade during lunch hour and other times and also the amount of passing trade based upon analysis of road usage, parking and traffic flows. I could go on, but you probably get the picture. There is a vast amount of data analysis going into corporate decision making, all aimed at selling stuff to you, even if you are unaware of what is going on. It isn't just about advertising, it is about putting stores and services where you are most likely to use them based upon your detailed profile and give companies the best return on their investments.

      1. Uffish

        Re: Former Experian developer here

        So far they haven't been able to force me to buy anything though and, tedious though it is, there are reasonably effective remedies for unwanted advertising.

        (Sorry El Reg - can you tell me how to accept your adverts anonymously - no cookies, no tracking, no targeting - otherwise the annoyance outweighs the benefits).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Former Experian developer here

        As a confirmed Grumpy Old Man who is a tightwad (from Yorkshire) with their money and does not buy anything that has been advertised to me, and pays cash whenever possible, I am just noise on the experian radar.

        I am also determined to exit this life without ever having set foot in a fast food chain outlet (burger and chicken crap and I also refuse to call them restaurants).

        I am not the target audience for pretty well anything these people want to sell me.

        They could die for all I am concerned. (all Ad agencies and ad slinging companies)

        1. andy 28

          Re: Former Experian developer here

          "does not buy anything that has been advertised to me"

          I used to think that. But then realised that pretty much everything is advertised (or marketed) one way or another. It would be nice to boycott those manufacturers who have so much money they can sponsor premier league but I doubt that would leave many options for new telly.

        2. Adam 52 Silver badge

          Re: Former Experian developer here

          "I am just noise on the experian radar"

          I doubt that. Experian will have lots on you regardless. They are widely regarded as the least ethical of an unethical bunch (an when one of that bunch is CIA stooge CACI - Google it - that's saying something)

          [by way of disclosure I used to work for Experian competitors and am now an Experian customer, much as I dislike it]

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Former Experian developer here

            Every adult in the UK has a unique Experian identity number (PURN) to which is attributed a substantial amount of data. There is also a household number (HURN) allocated too which includes family members such as number and ages of children. Even if someone purposely doesn't buy from advertisements, unless they live in an off-grid self-sufficient commune and don't use money then their spending power is in some part directed by Experian and other similar agencies. The agglomeration and detailed analysis of the various data determines what big name stores you will find and shop at in your town; everything from cheap pound shops, toy stores, midrange supermarkets to more affluent shops, car sales rooms and various take away and sit down restaurant chains. There is no escaping big-data nowadays, it impacts on everyone. It isn't by chance that various shops, businesses and even entire shopping centres appear where they do; it is all a result of a vast amount of number crunching of many disparate forms of data to optimise the financial viability of these enterprises.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Former Experian developer here

              The odd thing is that when all this data is collected and mines none of the businesses who buy it ever manage to work out a few simple things. Such as bad service pisses off customers. Unwanted pestering pisses of customers. Pissed off customers go elsewhere.

      3. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Former Experian developer here

        I used to work for Experian and I was shocked how much data they have on every person and household in the UK.

        Do you have anything to share on where the flaws in their disaster recovery plans might lie?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Former Experian developer here

          @Rich 11; Sorry, I know nothing about Experian's disaster recovery plans. As a developer such things were outside my remit. They had separate teams for handling the network / hardware and backups and similar such teams in the many other of Experian's departments. They also had a security department who placed very strict rules on the hardware and access to data etc.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Have you tried that on Experian?

      Try that one.

      The moment you understand that they are above the law in the UK is quite enlightening.

  5. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    "decisioning"

    is that even a word?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: "decisioning"

      Gerunding nouns is the new verbing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "decisioning"

        Seems to be an "American" thing.

        Last week i had some cretin tell me he was having a "disputation" with someone and that certain folks in the states are "villanized".

        No wonder the language is going to shit with non words like those two examples.

        Oh, dont get me started on the propensity of transposing "have" and "of". People who do that do not deserve oxygen...

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: "decisioning"

          It started with 'burglarizing' and it's all been downhill since...

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: "decisioning"

            It started with 'burglarizing' and it's all been downhill since...

            There has been downhillification in the languagineering.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "decisioning"

            "It started with 'burglarizing'"

            Or maybe 'envision'. There is a perfectly good word for what they're trying to say: 'envisage'.

    2. dajames Silver badge

      Re: "decisioning"

      "decisioning"

      is that even a word?

      One of the great things about the English language is that you can make new words from old whenever you like, and there's a reasonable chance that what you come up with may have a meaning that is obvious to your audience.

      ... but sometimes it doesn't!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New adnotblocker needed

    If you have the bandwidth to spare, you need an adnotblocker.

    The plugin will download all the ads in to a sandboxed area, if it is set to do it in real-time, it doesn't display them to you, but behind the scenes clicks on every link in every advert providing random cookies and browser/plugin/OS stats to avoid non cookie fingerprinting. If set to non real-time it will do the same while you sleep or are at work. This will polute the advertisers results and cost them for all the clicks on their ads and won't result in a purchase, ie it will cost them. Their ad network will get stick about the negligable conversion rates. Meanwhile, you continue ad free browsing, including sites that block adblocking plugin users.

    This product invention is offered under GPL 2.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: New adnotblocker needed

      Make it so number two!

      I for 1 would pay 50p for this addin.

    2. moiety

      Re: New adnotblocker needed

      Before it became ubiquitous, your app would also have to go out and find random pages that you haven't surfed to advert-fuck; otherwise it's possible it could be tracked back to you. An "add a proxy list" feature for sending the returns back would be handy too; otherwise it's all coming back from the same IP address.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: New adnotblocker needed

        "otherwise it's all coming back from the same IP address."

        I think that was the point - to poison the data.

        1. moiety

          Re: New adnotblocker needed

          Depends whether you want to poison the data from that IP for that period of time; or if you want to go for the advertiser's whole database.

  7. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    On a scale from 'Talk' Talk to 'NSA' - how secure is Experian's mountain of bits?

    1. ratfox Silver badge
    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wide open. Hackers have been waltzing through all the CC bureau databases since the 80s, and I don't see security getting any better in the web/mobile age.

      1. moiety

        They've pulled off the double!: Kroger (grocer, ~450K employees)

  8. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    accuracy?

    For all of the data that Experian have at their disposal, as highlighted by a previous poster, I can't help but wonder how relevant it is and how much ends up being noise.

    I'm put in mind of an episode of the generally excellent "Dave Gorman's Modern Life Is Good-ish" where he looked at the data held by somebody (I think it might have been YouGov). When you got into it, a the answers to a lot of questions started to seem a bit nonsensical, e.g. the relative political leanings of fans of various public figures

    1. moiety

      Re: accuracy?

      John Oliver answered your question about a month ago.

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Coat

    "The company claims that it is privacy compliant"

    Of course it is - it only sells your data to those who pay.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "The company claims that it is privacy compliant"

      "it only sells your data to those who pay"

      The rest just help themselves.

  10. Triggerfish

    FOI

    If you submitted an FOI on yourself, would it show where they collect the data from? That could be interesting.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: FOI

      FoI only applies to public sector bodies. Experian are private sector so immune to FoI.

      You might be better off using the Data Protection Act(s) to get them to tell you what they know about you. How much meta-data they give you (e.g. where they got the data from) is another mater.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: FOI @ A Non e mouse

        Aha, sorry yes thats what I actually meant, thanks.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Experian is a $5bn business

    this is, what, google profits per week? :(

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I tried their free one-month trial after I'd had a credit card hijacked - not only did they not know about that card, they didn't appear to know about any of my accounts or other cards. They were however keen that I should fill in the details for them.

    Is this how all those "free security cover for a year" offers from hacked companies work ?

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Indeed

      I had absolutely the same experience.

      If their data is as good as the data going into their anti-fraud service... Well... The only thing I can say about companies buying it for "decision making is": Marketeering scumbags feeding off each other. They all should get whatever Christmas they deserve.

      Actually, no, there is one more thing to say - their "knowledge" about is worse than what google has proportionally to the difference in their capitalizations.

    2. nijam

      > ...they didn't appear to know about any of my accounts or other cards

      Key word: "appear". They just wanted to ask you more questions, in fact.

  13. Chazmon

    I get loads of credit card offers through the snail mail because of my credit report obtained when I got a mortgage. You just can't win.

    My only consolation is stuffing the reply envelope with pizza menus and putting it back in the post.

    1. Woodnag

      Wrong approach

      That may give you a small amount of happiness, but won't stem the flow.

      An underpaid human being opens the envelope, and you need to persuade that person to bother to mark you off the mailing list. It's worth doing, because there actually aren't that many financial institutions.

      If addressed to me, I return the form in the prepaid envelope with the application bit crossed out with a felt pen, and the words "Kindly remove me from your mailing list". I that found kindly works better than please.

      If addressed to A N Other, I return the form in the prepaid envelope with the application bit crossed out with a felt pen, and the words "No such person at this address - possible fraud attempt". Works well.

      1. moiety

        Re: Wrong approach

        Prepaid envelopes should be sellotaped to a brick and posted.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Wrong approach

          "sellotaped to a brick"

          It doesn't work - it won't go through the letter box slit.

          1. swm Bronze badge

            Re: Wrong approach

            It worked in 1970. At college all of the students got offers from the Colombia Record Company and many of the students were stuffing all of the prepaid envelopes with their advertising material and returning it. We, in the computer department, had many boxes of full 5081 punched card boxes to which we taped the return envelop and mailed them. Running out of cards we filled one box with sand. (A mailbox only took 8 boxes before the door wouldn't open.)

            The next day the business manager of the computer center gets a call from the post office (since some of the boxes had computer department labels on them) asking if he wanted to send someone to the post office to seal the box that was leaking sand so that all of the precious sand would make it to the recipient. He didn't know anything about this so the postmaster said he was going to call Colombia Records so they could send someone to seal the box. He said that it was going to cost about $500 to send all of these boxes. Colombia records replied with a stop order for anything over 5 pounds so they never got the cards and sand.

            The students stopped getting Colombia Record Club solicitations shortly afterwards though.

  14. Woodnag

    Hyperbole

    "...you are bombarded with motorbike insurance advertising on every platform you go to."

    You are 'bombarded with' exactly the same amount of advertising as before. The content is just targetted.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was approached in the local shopping centre by a lady offering me a credit building credit card. I explained that I didn't need one and she insisted that my credit score could be improved with this card. After my patience had run slightly thinner I asked if she knew anything about credit scores as I thought I knew a bit more than her. She got a tiny bit defensive and told me that of course she did so I enquired as to what the maximum was on Experian.

    "Oh well it varies but we could get you up there" so I explained I had just ended my months trial with them. I said that I knew from this that I was "up there" and was only ±10points off a perfect score. She asked what my credit rating was "if you know so much about it". I said "Super Prime" and she looked me up an down once and said in a very sarcastic tone "Really?" before attaching herself to someone else.

    I wasn't lying I do have a good credit score but she clearly knew so little about them she shouldn't have been attempting to sign people up to a credit building credit card. Just because I was in a shopping centre during the day doesn't automatically mean I'm unemployed and you'd think she might want to consider I might be having a days holiday or a day off in lieu.

    I suspect Experian know loads about me which could come in useful if I forget something as old age advances!

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      You wouldn't expect her to know anything about it. They're no different from the chuggers, who may be wearing a badge for the charity they're collecting for - but usually know nothing about it.

      There's then a choice if the mark complains. You can either try and bluff it, or admit to a total lack of knowledge and just say this is your job. This depends on whether you're an alpha salesdroid, ready to bullshit your way through any objection to bring down the wildebeest - or a beta salesdroid, hoping for that vital sympathy-sale.

      Of course, option A is almost bound to fail, as a genuine alpha salesbeast should be doing rather better than credit card sign-ups and chugging in shopping centres.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I was approached in the local shopping centre by a lady offering me a credit building credit card."

      I had a similar experience when WH Smith was letting Talk-Talk button-hole people just inside the door. I explained in as loud a voice as possible (I counted it as a public service) why I'd changed ISP after Talk-Talk had bought out my previous one.

  16. Alastair Dodd 1
    Flame

    Worryingly incompetent even more worryingly powerful

    Seriously we should ignore Google's tax bill and GCHQ spying (for now) and launch a major inspection into Experian and all its ilk. Very dangerous information gathering, incredibly powerful to fsck your life up totally with no come back, no control and no oversight. Despicably corrupt and incompetent, leakier than a tuna net.

    Experian especially are scum of the highest order. I'd rather deal with Trump than them, but I can only avoid Trump!

    Any politician who has the teeth to take them on and sort out their dangerous muppetry and would actually do that would get my vote but considering they are more the real illuminati that isn't going to happen.

  17. Sproggit

    Is This Legal Under The DPA?

    Maybe it has changed, but I thought that when the UK Data Protection Act was passed in 1998, one of the provisions introduced was something that basically said, "Data gathered and used for one purpose cannot then be re-used for a different purpose without the permission of the data subject..."

    In other words, Experian might be able to harvest your data to determine if you are credit worthy, but that does not give them the right to sell that data for marketing purposes without your explicit permission...

    I may be wrong - can anyone here clarify please?

  18. Xynomix

    Their data is out of date

    I recently tried to use Experian's data cleansing service - and it was a terrible failure. They also refused to refund the meagre £50 we'd spent; thankfully we were cautious.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not worried about these assholes...

    Get a free credit report and you'll see their data is a mess, along with the other fuckwit TransUnion. What's more onerous now is how Facebook is data-mining every webpage.

    Slurping by Browser Sig & IP and adding intel to Adverts in a/c settings (omitting it from download-your-data)... Connecting the world with ads, just what a Psychopath would do!

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