July 6, 2012

The Information Is On You

There was a fascinating article in the New York Times (17 June 2012) called: "A data giant is Mapping and Sharing the Consumer Genome."

It is about a company called Acxion--with revenues of $1.13 billion--that develops marketing solutions for other companies based on their enormous data collection of everything about you!
Acxion has more than 23,000 servers "collecting, collating, and analyzing consumer data...[and] they have amassed the world's largest commercial database on consumers."

Their "surveillance engine" and database on you is so large that they:

- "Process more than 50 trillion data 'transactions' a year."
- "Database contains information about 500 million active consumers."
- "About 1,500 data points per person."
- Have been collecting data for 40 years!

Acxion is the slayer of the consumer big data dragon--doing large-scale data mining and analytics using publicly available information and consumer surveys.

They collect data on demographics, socio-economics, lifestyle, and buying habits and they integrate all this data.

Acxion generates direct marketing solutions and predictive consumer behavior information.

They work with 47 of the Fortune 100 as well as the government after 9/11.

There are many concerns raised by both the size and scope of this activity.
Firstly, as to the information itself relative to its:

- Privacy
- Security

Secondly, regarding the consumer in terms of potential: 

- Profiling
- Espionage
- Stalking
- Manipulation 

Therefore, the challenge of big data is a double-edged sword: 

- On one hand we have the desire for data intelligence to make sense of all the data out there and use it to maximum affect.
- On the other hand, we have serious concerns about privacy, security, and the potential abuse of power that the information enables. 

How we harness the power of information to help society, but not hurt people is one of the biggest challenges of our time. 

This will be an ongoing tug of war between the opposing camps until hopefully, the pendulum settles in the healthy middle, that is our collective information sweet spot. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


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