Tag Archives: Acxiom

Big Privacy: It’s Coming

By Marc Dresner, IIR

My blog last week focused on data brokers and the looming threat of a Big Privacy backlash
in response to Big Data collection run amuck.

I want to
stick with Big Privacy this week, because I believe strongly that the
consequences of inaction for those in the consumer insights field could be more
serious than most of us realize.

For starters,
high-profile gaffes by Facebook, Apple (I’m referring to “Locationgate” not the naked photo scandal) and the like have done much to educate
the public on the data-for-service arrangements those of us who didn’t read the Privacy Policy unknowingly entered
into with such companies.

I think most people have since resigned themselves to this trade-off. 

Maybe that’s
because many of us did a rough cost-benefit analysis and, if not ideal, we found the
model acceptable, harmless, reasonable’ 

The absence of any evidence suggesting widespread public outrage has to do with the fact that
people don’t think they have any choice

But I suspect that more likely than not, the relative absence of any evidence that suggests widespread public outrage has to do with the fact that people don’t think they have any choice in the
matter.

A friend I recently mentioned
this to dismissed the idea, noting that Facebook isn’t forcing anyone
to use its network.

That’s true. And it’s pretty much irrelevant to a realistic discussion about privacy, because what matters here is the perception of transparency and ethical conduct.

No one is being forced to Google anything, either. But that didn’t
prevent the European Union Court of Justice from ruling in May that Google must amend search results upon request’a precedent-setting decision that asserts
the rights of the individual to control his/her personal data.

Indeed, it’s this notion of control (and informed consent) that we need to start considering when we talk about privacy.
People
are waking up to the fact that information about them is being collected and
used for purposes that they aren’t aware of and might not consent to if they
were

People are just
now starting to wake up to the fact that information about them is being
collected by unknown others and used for purposes that they aren’t aware of and
might not consent to if they were.

Most of the general
public, I think, knows that privately held data’credit reports, purchase
histories, loyalty data’about them exist and are shared between companies, but
I’d wager few people understand the extent of this sharing or what policies or
rules govern such activity.

Josh Klein, author of ‘Reputation Economics: Why Who You Know Is Worth More Than What You Have,’ points out that most people would probably be surprised to learn that Acxiom and LexisNexis have been aggregating purchase history to develop health profiles, which they sell to hospitals who then
use the information to advertise targeted medical services.


“Tell people this sort of
thing and it’s no leap for them to imagine that information going to their
insurance adjustors,” Klein said in a presentation he delivered at TMRE’s sister event, Shopper Insights in Action, this past July.

People would probably be even more shocked to know what can be amassed about them in the public domain’tax
records, voting records, ethnicity, religion, who your neighbors are, if you’re
married, do you take care of your parents, do you have children, etc.

This information isn’t
just available to Big Brother; it’s available to, well, me if I want it.

Klein pointed out that Spokeo combs publicly available sources, aggregates the data and basically provides
a docier on individuals to subscribers for about $3 per month.

Now, you can opt out of a Spokeo listing, but you cannot close the spigot of publicly available data about you. That alarms some people. 

Surveillance
is a loaded word, but that’s what is happening when we go online, isn’t it? 

Surveillance
is a loaded word, but that’s what is happening when we go online, isn’t it? And
on such a massive scale that Orwellian is almost an understatement.

Klein notes that Google only needs 22
points of data to figure out who you are wherever you log on. (Whether you hit the logo to go back to the home page or hit the
home button is one such data point.)

And then there’s mobile’where you go, what you do on your phone’it’s all being collected. 


People may have signed on, but they are not on board.

So, again, why haven’t we
seen a bigger backlash?
Maybe it’s a matter of ignorance or denial. Maybe people think it’s futile. Maybe we’re just lazy.
Whatever the
case, it is a curious thing and I’m not the only one who believes the situation is unsustainable.

Coming Next: Data Custodianship, Privacy By Design and a Huge Opportunity for Consumer Researchers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 
Marc Dresner is IIR USA’s sr. editor and special communication project lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the marketing research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at mdresner@iirusa.com. Follow him @mdrezz.

Data Brokers: Shadow Industry, Privacy Flashpoint, Research Problem

By Marc Dresner, IIR

I attend a lot of research conferences and I’ve
noticed that when the subject of privacy comes up, people frequently check out’laptops
open, fingers wander to phones, sometimes eyes even roll’

I attribute this to the fact that
heretofore privacy has been pretty much a non-issue for researchers. Arguably
no other industry adheres to more rigid privacy standards.
The problem, however, is that we live in a
world where data are no longer rare, and researchers obviously aren’t the only
ones who trade in information nowadays.

Experts and authorities warn of a ‘Big
Privacy’ backlash in response to Big Data collection
Experts and authorities from a variety of
fields and sectors’from public policy to data security’warn of a mounting ‘Big
Privacy’ backlash in response to passive Big Data collection.
And if you’ve not been paying attention to the
public discourse on privacy of late, perhaps it’s time to start, because the outcome of
this debate could affect consumer research.

Flashpoint: Data Brokers
Where there’s a Big Data and privacy
concern, you’re increasingly likely to hear “data brokers” mentioned.
I’ve been surprised by the number of
researchers who’ve told me they haven’t heard of this $250 billion industry,
especially since so many of our companies (or our clients, if you’re a research
firm) do business with them.
Data brokers collect information about
consumers from public records and private sources and sell it to marketers.

The chief complaint against
them is that they often do so without people’s knowledge or consent. 

It’s also a relatively unregulated space, which coupled with the perceived lack of transparency’some call it a ‘shadow
industry”makes people uncomfortable.

Now, these aren’t shadowy guys in sunglasses
lurking in alleyways hocking hot dossiers under their trench coats (although
that’s how they’re increasingly depicted).

They include big, well-known names like
Acxiom and Equifax, as well as a lot of smaller companies you may not have
heard of.
Like any industry, there may be responsible
and not-so-responsible actors, but it’s the
possibility
of the latter that’s captured the attention of regulators and
the media.

The collection and use of consumer
information by marketers is being characterized as somehow sinister or potentially dangerous

What’s especially troubling here is that the collection and use of consumer information by marketers, in general, is being increasingly characterized as somehow sinister or at least potentially dangerous to people.

Consider…

  • CBS’s ’60 Minutes’ aired a breathless segment on data brokers back in March that made admirable use of government surveillance anxiety in the wake of the NSA/Snowden scandal to scare the heck out of the viewing audience.
  • The FTC issued a report May 27 calling on Congress to regulate data brokers (with only a slightly less ominous tone than the ’60 Minutes’ episode).
  • A subsequent commentary about data brokers published online by the Wall Street Journal’that bastion of left-wing conspiracy nuts’went so far as to compare Big Data to the Nazis’ use of IBM punch cards to identify and round up Jews and enemies of the state. (The lead sentence of that article: ‘Adolph Hitler used Big Data.’)

There’s more where that came from,
but you get the idea.

Data brokers have come to represent a
‘threat’ to personal privacy that has already catalyzed a backlash

Data brokers have come to represent a ‘threat”whether
real or imagined’to personal privacy that has already catalyzed a backlash.

Notably, concerns about data brokers have begun to figure into international relations.
The EU has pushed for
suspension of the 2000 Safe Harbor agreement with the U.S. over alleged breach
of consumer privacy by data brokers, and earlier this month, the Center for Digital Democracy filed a complaint with the FTC alleging the same.
The debate is even reportedly spilling over
into the Transatlantic Trade and
Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.
As noted, the FTC has already pushed
Congress for action. It’s not unlikely that we’ll see such calls intensify
domestically.
I’ll also point out that many articles on the subject either don’t trouble to distinguish between
or’as is the case with the ’60 Minutes’ coverage’conflate research companies
and data brokers.

This needs to be taken seriously.

It’s time for the research industry to engage, before the court of public opinion renders a verdict that may not serve the common good.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marc Dresner is IIR USA’s sr. editor and special communication project lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the marketing research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at mdresner@iirusa.com. Follow him @mdrezz.