Acxiom Addendum

In the course of my research for the post on The Hymn of Acxiom, I found that Acxiom offers the data mined (that's us: the raw material for their customer profiles sold to other companies) a way to see what data the company has on them. The portal goes by the innocuous, educational-sounding name "About the Data," and it's worth a look.

Looking into my own profile, I was impressed by the accuracy of the information there, but underwhelmed by what the company has on me. For that matter, to say that someone "has something" on you implies a dossier of weaponized data that can be used against you. But if you're like me, what you'll find on About the Data is far from an FBI file. Gender, marital status, the make and model of my car, some mundane stats on online credit card purchases...nothing particularly interesting--much less shocking or incriminating.

Frankly, the prevalence of people wringing their hands over what "private" information may be "out there" is perplexing to me. Acxiom doesn't know my favorite Beatle (George), my favorite IPA (currently, Sixpoint Resin), or how I take my coffee (black). Without these and hundreds of thousands of other "data points" that describe me, Acxiom has a very crude sketch of me as a consumer--much less as a person. As it stands, they're nowhere near the sort of co-opting of my identity that so many seem to fear.

Just when I was about to dismiss About the Data as much ado about nothing, there came an intriguing moment. The portal allows you to edit and update your own information, Wikipedia style, but also offers an easy-to-find link to opt out altogether. But when you click on it, you first get this message: 
Before You Opt-Out, Consider This:
Opting out of Acxiom's online and/or offline marketing data will not prevent you from receiving marketing materials. Instead of receiving ads that are relevant to your interests, you will see more generic ads with no information to tailor content. For example, instead of getting a great offer on a hotel package in your favorite vacation spot, you might see an ad for the latest, greatest weight loss solution.
Marketing maverick Elbert Hubbard.
It's a very effective pitch to "help us help you." Arts and Crafts huckster Elbert Hubbard once said, “The man who is afraid of advertising is either a nincompoop or has something to hide.” And that's really all we're talking about here: focused advertising. It's not magic; it's just data. Targeted ads are everywhere now, and there's no avoiding them. So why not help make what you inevitably see more relevant? Fear of such complicity is something akin to wearing a tin foil hat: it's not going to protect you from anything, and makes you look silly in the process. Acxiom isn't "Big Brother," and you're not going to lose your soul by embracing your digital self.

OK, Acxiom, I'll play along. I wouldn't want to be seen as a nincompoop.


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