September 20, 2014

Company giving consumers a peek at personal data

A company that collects consumer information about millions of American is giving its targets a peek at what it has on them.

Earlier this month, data collection company Acxiom launched a website that allows consumers to view the profile the company has built about them, which can include public salary data, magazine subscriptions, and even answers on marketing surveys. Acxiom is one of several companies that collect the information, then sells it to businesses looking to market to specific demographics.

UW-Madison assistant professor of marketing Rob Tanner says it’s an interesting experiment that could help to demystify some of the unknowns about the industry. He says it “can sound mysterious and threatening” to many consumers to know that some company is gathering that data.

The page also allows consumers to correct or remove information about them, which Tanner admits could be a smart move on Acxiom’s part. He says it’s a bit of a “crazy thing” to actually have people correcting marketing information for the marketer.

Tanner says it’s an interesting move to make, with many Americans aware of the controversy surrounding the federal government monitoring online communications. He says the database could be seen as an effort to get around a “Big Brother” perception, and make people view the marketing data as something similar to a credit report.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:03)