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The Big Data Bamboozle

Big Data Blog

Acxiom, a big data company, released a website called About the Data yesterday morning. It’s a website where you can see what data they have on you. Of course, in this time of Edward Snowden and the NSA, the press picked up the story of this good brother of big brother and their egalitarian concern for the public good.

Curious, I went to the site and eagerly anticipated seeing into the secret KGB files, not deterred by the requirement to enter in all my critical information (figuring they already have it).

To my surprise, the only information they seemed to have right was the information I had entered in order to find my file. They did, however, have pages of data points about me that were wrong.

My interests were all wrong. My purchase habits, all wrong. My home ownership and credit card use, all wrong. Happily, however, next to each erroneous piece of information about me there was a button that I could click to fix their error.

“Ah ha!” I said to myself, now I can fix all these errors at last. Finally, I could set these big data guys straight and get the facts right. No I didn’t like hockey (I’m a tennis man) and I don’t shop at Walmart (I like Target) and…wait a minute! Suddenly my addled consumer brain switched on and I realized I was looking at a fiendish plot from the same people that brought us credit scores.

Did they think we were so stupid that we would do their work for them? Did they think I would just tell them everything about me? Did they think that consumers would be so naive as to think that this website was some kind of good deed?

According to the New York Times’ Scott E. Howe, the chief executive of Acxiom said all the company wanted was to give consumers greater control over their data. Sure, and Miley Cyrus was just looking for her contact when Robin Thicke bumped into her.

Well I’m impressed by their audacity, but I’m not stupid. I made sure I didn’t give them my real email address. That should hold them at bay for about 5 seconds.


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