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Acxiom Taps Transparency For Big Data PR

11 Sep, 2013 By: Doug McPherson

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Data giant Acxiom is battling privacy advocates with an unlikely weapon: transparency.

Acxiom executives told AdAge about a newly launched website called where visitors can enter their names, addresses and the last four digits of their social security numbers to see information Acxiom has gathered on them. The data includes age, estimated income, residence, ethnicity, marital status and which categories of product purchases – from food to home furnishings – a consumer has ordered via the mail.

Acxiom says it hopes the move will pacify lawmakers who are threatening to curb the industry's practices and preempt heightened consumer concern about data security and privacy.

The home page reads: “Ever wonder what kind of information determines the ads you see or the offers you receive? You’ve come to the right place. About The Data brings you answers to questions about the data that fuels marketing and helps ensure you see offers on things that mean the most to you and your family.”

AdAge calls the effort “ambitious in its accessibility, simplicity and undisguised pitch to consumers about the merits of data improving people's lives.”

The site has even garnered praise from Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill, who has been prodding the data industry to be more forthcoming about what it knows and how it operates. She called the site "easy to use" and "intuitive."

AdAge also reports that Bryan Kennedy, CEO of Epsilon (an Acxiom competitor), said the move is "consistent with where the industry has been moving, and moving at sort of a careful pace."

Justin Brookman, director for Center for Democracy and Technology's Project on Consumer Privacy, is one who thinks the Acxiom initiative might win the company points – at least on the legislative front. "buys them some goodwill ... on the Hill," he said, but "most consumers aren't going to know about this."

Pew Research Center just published a report showing 86 percent of Internet users have attempted to obscure digital actions by clearing cookies or encrypting E-mail.

Congress has considered several online privacy bill proposals intended to give consumers more control over digital-data tracking and limit the ability of corporations to track online. None has been passed. And in December the FTC asked nine data brokers, including Acxiom, to detail their data collection and use practices.

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