Who is Acxiom?
Under an hour outside of Little Rock Arkansas is a squat, nondescript brown office building sporting no company logo on the front. Located across from a Yamaha dealer and a shop that sells front-end loaders, you could easily drive by and miss it. It blends in with the vibe of the town. It’s a building that feels like it should be full of the offices of wealth managers, dentists, and insurance agents.
Except for that huge fence. In a town that feels like one of those places where people still leave their doors unlocked at night, it feels out of place. It is the one thing that sticks out and makes you do a double-take when you drive by. Who needs a fence like that in a town like this?
The fence is there for good reason. Behind it is the headquarters of a company that knows more about you than your mom. One that as of last count (in 2012), holds more than 1,500 pieces of information each on over 700 million adults. If you live in the United States, that almost certainly includes you.
The company is Acxiom, one of the largest data brokers in the world. They don’t brag about it. In fact, they’d probably prefer to keep flying under the radar, just like their completely nondescript headquarters.
What do they know about you?
In short, just about everything about you outside what is in your head.
- Age, marital status, education, children
- Property owned, rentals, and how long you’ve lived there
- “Major life events” like getting married or having a baby
- Ethnicity, religious affiliation, and language preference
- Vehicle data, including make, model, number of vehicles, and your car insurance data
- Drivers license data
- Voting records
- How much you earn
- Professional licenses (and even hunting and fishing licenses)
- Your credit history and information on your lines of credit
- Purchase history
- Court records, including bankruptcies, liens, and any judgments or convictions
- Hobbies and other interests
In addition to all that, Acxiom also tracks you online and correlates that data with the above information.
Did you browse that website featuring customizable Nicolas Cage throw pillows that one night after going out? Acxiom may have tracked you there. And they know that you make more than $90,000 per year, have a tendency to make impulse purchases, and prefer the color blue (based on your last car purchase). All of a sudden, you’re seeing ads everywhere for blue Jeff Goldblum custom shower curtains. And you have no idea why.
Acxiom knows why. Because they have more data on you than your mom. Start writing a list of things she knows about you. And keep writing. If you’re thorough, you may get a few hundred things before you start hitting a mental block. Acxiom has well over 1,500 pieces of information about you. And that was over 5 years ago.
What do they do with your data?
In short, they sell it. To the tune of over a billion dollars a year.
Some of the biggest companies in the world pay Acxiom to learn more about you. What makes you tick. And what it will take to get you to buy their products. Companies on their short list include:
- Eight of the top 10 insurance providers
- Seven of the top10 credit card issuers
- Seven of the top 10 retail banks
- Seven of the top 10 retailers
- Seven of the top 10 automotive manufacturers
- Seven of the top 10 hotels
- Six of the top 10 media companies
- Five of the top 10 technology companies
Your personal data is incredibly valuable. It is a goldmine of information to marketers who are looking to capitalize on creating a perfectly tailored set of ads to show you online.
In addition to selling your data to marketers, they also provide your data to companies doing background checks. Wonder why you didn’t get that last job? A data broker like Acxiom may have sold your personal data to the company you were applying for. And maybe they didn’t like what they saw.
How is this legal?
We’re living in the Wild West of data privacy. Laws and other consumer protections don’t exist yet to protect your data. As of 2018, there are no current laws requiring data brokers to maintain the privacy of consumer data in the United States.
That means just about anybody can be a data broker. And they can collect nearly anything (and everything) about you. And sell it to (basically) anybody. No one knows exactly how many data brokers currently exist, as they do not need any special license or registration. The irony is that companies selling your personal data fight to keep their identities private.
Industry sources estimate that there are between 50,000 and 70,000 such data brokers in the US alone. Good luck trying to delete all your personal data on your own.
Your personal data is being sold every day. You aren’t seeing a penny of it. And there is nothing the government can (currently) do to stop it or delete all of it that has already been collected.
Just because it isn’t illegal doesn’t make it safe. For example, in 2003 Acxiom was hacked and more than 1.6 billion customer records were stolen. At the time, it was the largest personal data theft ever recorded.
Was Acxiom fined or reprimanded for losing all your personal data after collecting it without your permission? Of course not. They were even praised by the government for their quick action in notifying the authorities.
An action plan to protect your privacy
Step 1: Opt out of Acxiom’s data collection
You can stop Acxiom from selling your personal data to marketers by using the Opt-Out process.
Note – this does not specifically remove your data from Acxiom’s database. It just prevents them from selling it to certain marketers. Your personal data can still be sold to companies utilizing their identity and directory products (for example – for background checks).
Step 2: Install an Ad Blocker
A good ad blocker is the first line of defense against data brokers like Acxiom from collecting your online browsing data.
Step 3: Disable third-party cookies
We’ll write more about third-party cookies at a later time. But disabling them is essentially the nuclear option to keep data brokers from tracking you most places online.
Step 4: Sign up for Delete All My Data
Our reason for existing is to help you delete all your personal data from data brokers like Acxiom. Become a member today, and we’ll help you begin to reclaim your privacy online.Join!
Why did we start Delete All My Data? Learn why here.
P.S. – We do not receive any compensation for products that we recommend in our blog posts outside of membership in DeleteAllMyData.com.