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September 6, 2013

Do you want to know what they know?

Stephanie Carlin Blue Door Consulting

Did you ever wonder exactly how much marketers know about you? Thanks to Acxiom® Corporation, you can find out. Acxiom is a data mining organization that has traditionally been one of the most secretive and prolific collectors of consumer information. In an unprecedented move, it unveiled a site on September 4th that enables consumers to see exactly what information the company has collected on you from public records, self-reported surveys, and more. The site, AboutTheData.com, requires you to enter some basic data to verify your identity but gives you full access to your consumer profile.

So what can you see about yourself? In short, everything. The data includes biographical facts, such as education level, marital status and number of children in your household. If you own a home, it will tell you the mortgage amount and property size. It will even tell you the make and model of the cars that you drive, along with household income data and recent purchases on a credit card, if you have one.

Here’s where it gets a little unsettling. You might be surprised to see how much information is readily available on your shopping habits and purchases. Not only will it tell you how you prefer to order things (on line or by mail) but it will give you a general  synopsis of items you recently bought. It also summarizes your household interests. If your family is into cooking or home improvement, Acxiom knows it. If you have a pet or elderly person living in your home, that is probably on your report, too.

Aside from general curiosity, why would you want to know what they know? First, the site gives you the option to fix the information if it’s wrong, so you’ll finally stop receiving marketing materials that you don’t care about. Second, you can opt out of Acxiom from collecting information on you and sharing it with other companies.

I admit, I searched my profile before I wrote this blog. Unfortunately, I was an unrecognized user. Or, perhaps this makes me lucky, depending on your view. However, a co-worker was able to retrieve her profile, and the report tagged her as a Republican cat owner who was intent on buying a new car. Yes, the report even used the word ‘intent’ as though they knew she was actively car shopping. She would neither confirm nor deny the affiliation with a certain political party, however, she said the accuracy was eerie. But it’s not always accurate. One of my co-workers who is a liberal(ish) single mom was pegged as married, childless, and (gasp) a Republican! She was quick to make the corrections.

So what do you think? Are you curious to find out what marketers already know about you, or think they know?