‘Reclaim Your Name:’ Find Out What Big Data Companies Know About You

According to CNN, Acxiom is the “biggest company you’ve never heard of.” Acxiom, which is headquartered in Little Rock, Ark., cleared $1.1 billion in revenue last year selling its “analytical services” to other organizations. The company has data on 144 million American households and sells that data to other enterprises to help with marketing efforts.

American consumers have concerns about privacy, especially as more and more big corporations report that hackers are stealing personal data about consumers at increasing rates. To look at more info or to study these issues in great depth, check out available online cyber security master’s programs. In those programs as well as in the media, you may soon hear about a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) effort to inform consumers about what data companies like Acxiom possess. The proposal is called “Reclaim Your Name.”

Find Out What Big Data Companies Know About You

What Data Do Companies Collect About Your Habits?

According to an infographic from Baynote, a data brokerage like Acxiom can obtain a great deal of information about you online, such as:
• The ads you click on
• What browser you use
• Who your Internet service providers (ISP) is
• The names of ads that appeal to you
• Your phone number
• Your search queries
• Your email address
• Information about your computer or mobile device
• Your location
• Your IP address
• Your third-party connections

Companies collect this data in a variety of ways. For example, they may use cookies, device-tracking software, facial recognition software or programs like Google AdSense. The data helps companies to provide marketing to you, like location-based services, integrated accounts, targeted advertising, notifications, third-party information exchange and personalized content.

By acquiring information about you, companies like Acxiom can build your consumer profile. Companies purchase the profiles of customers that fit into their target market. On one hand, data collection lets you received a personalized online browsing and shopping experience. You’re made aware of promotions that could really make your life easier, and you learn about companies that have goods that appeal to your interests. On the other hand, these companies know a lot about you. This personal information is stored in their datacenters and is vulnerable to hacking.

Social media has become a huge part of our everyday experience, yet social networks are also major data collectors. About 65 percent of social media users are concerned about privacy. Interestingly, however, people from different countries have different feelings about Internet privacy. People from developing economies like China, Brazil and India look at data sharing as an acceptable part of social interaction. The U.S. and Western Europe tend to be more concerned about losing their privacy.

What is ‘Reclaim Your Name?’

Julie Brill of the FTC has proposed a program called “Reclaim Your Name.” The program has come forward in the face of public concerns about government surveillance. If Brill gets her way, then consumers will be able to:
• Find out how data brokerages collect and use personal data
• See what data companies have gathered
• Opt out of letting data brokerages assemble a consumer profile
• Make corrections to data profiles just like they correct errors on credit reports

According to The New York Times, Brill wants to put together a portal that includes information about how data brokerages collect data. Consumers would also have access to corporate privacy policies. However, when privacy policies are huge and written in highly technical language, very few consumers actually take the time to read them. Yahoo’s policy, for example, is almost 3,500 words long.

The government has made multiple attempts to constrict data collection. In 2011, former Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) proposed a bill that would have required companies to secure all personal data from hackers, let consumers know how data is collected and allow consumers to opt out of collection practices. The bill failed because of the potential impact on business bottom lines.

Consumers can be placed at risk when their data is lost or stolen. They can also be endangered when the data that brokerages store is false. Constant targeted advertising can affect households that share the same computer. For example, if parents shop for lingerie or other adult items online, then their kids could see targeted adult ads whenever they open the browser. Only time will tell if Americans get the chance to reclaim their names.

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