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Acxiom site offers peek at its data

By Jessica Seaman

This article was published September 4, 2013 at 12:26 a.m.

Acxiom Corp. is now offering consumers a peek at the data collected on them in a move to become more transparent.

The Little Rock company’s new website, aboutthedata.com, is set to open today. The website says it will “make data work for you” and that consumers will “know what data says about [them] and how it is used.”

“We want to open a dialogue and to eventually form a relationship directly with consumers,” Jennifer Barrett-Glasgow, chief privacy officer for the company, said in an emailed statement. “The combination of consumer interest, more data availability and technology leaps have finally made it practical to do this and do it in a secure way.”

Acxiom is a data broker that collects information about hundreds of thousands of people and packages it to sell to clients, such as banks and retailers, to use in targeted marketing campaigns.

The company gleans data from public records, its clients and from in-store shopping habits. Public data sources include the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address registry.

Acxiom’s decision to allow people access to its data comes after the company announced a partnership with social-media website Facebook.com. Acxiom said it will use its data to help Facebook advertisers target users.

This year, Acxiom’s leaders have directed the company to focus more on online marketing.

Scott Howe, the company’s president and chief executive officer, said earlier this year that clients using Acxiom’s data can’t continue to rely only on traditional marketing methods - bulk mail and email advertisements - to reach consumers.

He said companies must have the ability to reach consumers through different platforms, including social media.

“People don’t like to be mass marketed - they want more control and choices over the marketing messages they receive,” Barrett-Glasgow said about Acxiom’s decision to start up its new website. “All in all, it is the right thing to do for the people; we believe what we are doing creates value for both people and businesses.”

A recent New York Times article said aboutthedata.com users also will be able to update the information Acxiom has collected.

The article said the site includes biographical and economic information, such as how much money a person earns as well as information about the user’s recent purchases.

Barrett-Glasgow said the website will allow consumers to learn more about how the information helps companies create “more relevant digital experiences.”

She said people will be able to view, edit and reduce data about them or opt out - from online marketing only or from all of Acxiom’s marketing efforts.

The “overall Acxiom opt out” will “completely suppress the consumer from being included in any of the marketing data we sell or use - both online and offline,” Barrett-Glasgow said.

As Acxiom has made the shift to online marketing, it has been pressured by critics who say the company should tell consumers more about the personal data being gathered and how it is used.

Privacy concerns are not new to Acxiom, and the issue was raised again recently after reports that government agencies had used data collected by similar companies in its surveillance programs.

While Acxiom said its new website is designed to alleviate those concerns, not everyone is satisfied.

“It’s designed for Acxiom to collect even more information from consumers and undermined the call to regulate data brokers,” said Jeffery Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “This is too little and too late.”

Front Section, Pages 1 on 09/04/2013

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KMS says... September 5, 2013 at 10:19 a.m.

How funny - it's offline

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