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Working with Big System

I was thinking of titling this one "Working with Big Brother", but that doesn't exactly apply. Big Brother can literally translate to oppressive control, a.k.a. Authoritarianism. However, as I've come to find out, you can actually work with non-government data mining companies to your advantage if you know how.

Data mining as it pertains to you can be summed up in questions: What do other companies know about you? How much of your personal information is stored "out there"? Is there any way to access it, or better yet, delete it?

Yes and no.

Here are two private data mining companies that you've probably never heard about: ChoicePoint and Acxiom. Both these companies probably know everything about you - and I mean everything.

Is this bad? Not really. It's only bad if you aren't aware of it.

ChoicePoint will openly share whatever data they have about you by simply asking them. All you have to do is mail out a form (that's a PDF link by the way), wait a few weeks and ta-da, you know what they know. I applaud ChoicePoint for making it very easy to request records on yourself.

Acxiom on the other hand is not so easy. You have to go to the "Contact Us" link and then choose the "Opt-Out Request Form". Okay, good, you can opt-out, but how do you retrieve information about yourself from Acxiom? This is buried several menus deep on their web site. You have to click "Privacy", then "U.S. Products Privacy", then look to the bottom under "Your Choices and How to Contact Us". You can send e-mail or call them - HOWEVER - this only pertains to their products. What about contacting them just to ask the simple question "Hey, what do you know about me? Could you send me a copy?" Acxiom makes this very difficult to do to say the least.

What do companies like ChoicePoint and Acxiom actually do? The layman's definition would be "study and research of consumers in the marketplace". Yes, I know, that's a really vague description, but it essentially covers all the bases. Data mining companies make it their business to assist retailers by tracking spending habits, trends and so on. And contrary to popular belief, they're not "out to get you". If they were, then they wouldn't offer any option to share what they know with you.

I plan on mailing out the ChoicePoint request form next week and calling Acxiom either tomorrow or next week.

If you're wondering what type of report you'd receive, it's a document that's usually at least fifteen pages long, sorta/kinda like a credit report.

Do you care about what other companies know about you? Well, now you have the info to find out what they know. Don't say I never gave you anything. 🙂

-- edit 8/10/2007 --

News travels fast when you blog about big companies.

I'd live to wave hello to PreEmploy, Oglivy Public Relations and Acxiom. All three of you visited my web site and read this article less than 24 hours after I posted it.

Could you guys mail me a t-shirt or a baseball cap with your corporate logo on it? I'd wear 'em. Seriously, I would. I'm not being sarcastic. I like corporate garb. In fact, tell you what - I'll post a photo of myself wearing it on this site if you send it to me. 😀

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