Monday, 23 July 2012

Your Privacy, Sold

The New York Times published an article dealing with Acxiom. This is a company that makes its money by selling you, or rather information it had collected about you from 1,500 different data points. You are not alone, by the way: Acxiom maintains information about some 500,000,000 of us (ain't the figure nice when one is presented with all those zeroes?).
What New York Times is telling us about this Acxiom is amazing in a grotesque sort of a way. When asked to provide personal data, the company responded by saying it could only provide basic info; however, the company acknowledges it will sell the more detailed info, in aggregated form, to companies willing to pay for it. First, I think they're lying; if the data's there because it's collected then the data's there to be provided. Second, and more importantly, to the best of my understanding Acxiom is in breach of Australian privacy laws, laws that require those who gather and maintain information about people to turn that information in at a personal request.
Somehow, though, I am not "concerned" about Acxiom's ability to do business in Australia. Why? Because their ex CEO in Australia is non other than MP Andrew Robb (see here). According to The Age's profile on Robb, the Liberal front bencher who is set to become a prominent federal minister if the next elections go the way the polls say they would, Acxiom is a "direct marketing" company. I guess this type of euphemisms is just one of the many ways in which politicians protect the companies that make them their money even when it is clear the public would detest everything those companies stand for.
In other words, if Australian media was half as good as it should have been, characters like Robb would have no way of getting elected. As it is, the Robbs of this world are in full control of the media. Obviously, we live in a healthy democracy.

Image: ABC Hungry Beast

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