Marketers may think they know all about me, but they don't
Data broker Acxiom did something a little unusual this week. It launched a service that lets you see the data they've collected on you. I decided to test this service by checking out my own data, and what I found surprised me.
The database is similar to many others used by so-called data brokers. These companies gather information on individuals and groups and sell it to advertisers. It's supposed to give the advertisers an edge in serving ads that are most relevant to any particular person.
I always think the ads I see on Facebook as an example are patently absurd -- whenever I take the time to look at them, which honestly is rarely. Most of the time they are so poorly targeted they are laughable. After peaking at the Acxicom database, my advice to advertisers is save your money.
Where The Data Comes From
Where do they get this information? Well, according to the Acxiom Aboutthedata.com web site, it comes from public records, surveys and questionnaires we might have filled out, and other undefined collection points. Lessons to be learned from that little bit of information: Be careful what you share about yourself because someone is always collecting it.
Yet given all that information from a variety of sources, I found multiple inaccuracies -- some minor, some that were just plain wrong. When you consider all of the information we share on websites on a daily basis, this company's picture of me was still woefully inadequate.
And I'm pleased about that.
To get started I went to he Aboutthedata.com web site. I had to supply a bunch of information to get started, which made me pause. Was this a scam to get more data about me? The registration process included my name, address, phone number, email and the last four digits of my social. The latter made me think hard about continuing, but in the name of getting the story, I held my nose and gave the required information.
At first it wouldn't let me in when I used my secondary email -- only after supplying my Gmail address did it work. Once in, I was presented with a page with links to different kinds of data, including Characteristic, Home, Auto, Economic, Shopping and Household Interests.
You learn more by clicking the button for each category and it displays a list of options for each one. You can edit it and correct it or you can choose to not display that characteristic at all.
A closer look at the data
So what did my data look like? Without getting into too much detail because I would rather leave my personal information private, they were not really close on my income, but I rarely supply that, so I'm not surprised. They got my political affiliation wrong because I don't affiliate with any party. I certainly lean heavily in one direction, but I'm not a member of a party, so in that sense it was wrong.
It got the number of kids I have wrong, which is somehow strangely comforting.
They got the easy details about my house right -- heck, that's on Zillow -- but they didn't get any of my mortgage information correct. They had no vehicle data whatsoever, which seems odd given that I have to register my car and pay excise taxes and both of those are public records.
The Economic data got my credit cards right, although not the types (regular versus gold, etc) and I've dropped one, but I wouldn't expect them to know that yet. Other data in this category was hard to interpret, and when I clicked the little i icon to get more information, it didn't supply any. Hey it's a beta. There are bound to be glitches.
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