• Website stockpiles personal information for marketing

    By: John Bachman


    ATLANTA - Your personal information is no longer your private information.

    Marketing companies are building profiles on people, tracking the cost your home, how many kids you have and how much you spend online.

    For decades companies have been gathering data on consumers, but marketing technology firm Acxiom is now letting people see what it knows.

    On the website AboutTheData.com, you can type in your name, address, birthday and the last four digits of your social security number to reveal a trove of personal information that has been collected.

    The website lists data on you, your home, your car, your income, your spending, and even your interests.

    Author Jim Kelly sat down with Channel 2’s John Bachman to take a look at his profile on the website.

    “They know my salary range. Wow. They know my investing. Wow,” Kelly said. “Average spent for online purchases, total dollars spent. Wow.”

    Kelly said he isn’t surprised the information is out there, but he is surprised how easy it was to find all in one place.

    “It’s disturbing. What I don’t like about it is – where does it stop?” Kelly said. “It’s going to make people start talking about, ‘What are the limits?’ How far can you take this before enough people say, ‘Look, you gotta stop this’?”

    It’s not going to stop. In fact, experts believe it’s going to grow even bigger, which is not necessarily a bad thing for consumers.

    “If you are interested in some of these products, the data they have, the data they have on you is accurate, you are getting more relevant offers and you can potentially envision consumers maybe getting coupons or discounts because of their purchasing history,” Georgia Tech business professor Dr. Jeffrey Hu said.

    That’s true if the data the companies have is correct. Hu put his name in and got interesting results because he shares credit cards with his wife.

    “It shows I bought some women’s clothing, and that’s been a few dollars, so they inferred gender for me is female,” Hu said.

    He is not the only one. Bachman found errors on his report, as did several Channel 2 Action News producers.

    Heather Phillips said there were several errors on her profile, but AboutTheData.com allows consumers to make changes.

    “No, I’m not married. No, I don’t have a 15-year-old daughter,” Phillips said. “I could tweak it if I wanted to, but I don’t know why I would really feel compelled to.”

    Channel 2 consumer advisor Clark Howard said it is up to you if you want to make changes.

    “That’s your choice. Because, if you fix it, you’re just helping them zero in more on you and get in your head more,” Howard said.

    Clark said he found plenty of errors on his own profile.

    “I find it so funny, because so much of the information is so far off base. The science is good, but it’s really a game of horseshoes. At this point, with them, close is good enough,” Howard said.

    Not everyone is listed. Celeste Debro is one of a select few who get a “Unable to verify you” message. She said she should be on the grid, but she’s thankful to not be listed on the website.

    Howard said just because AboutTheData.com does not have your information, some other marketing firm probably does.

    “I think the most important thing to know is there are spying eyes everywhere and they’re building dossiers on us for all different kinds of purposes. When we think we’re anonymous, we’re not,” Howard said.

    Kelly said he’s glad to know what marketers have on him.

    “It’s an eye-opener. I really appreciate you showing this to me. I’ll have to show it to my wife,” Kelly said.

    Next Up:

  • Headline Goes Here

    Website stockpiles personal information for marketing