Congress to Investigate Data Brokers, Including Acxiom

Spurred by June New York Times article on the activities of data brokers, Congress has opened an investigation of the companies, including Little Rock's Acxiom Corp.

According to a New York Times article published Wednesday, eight lawmakers are involved in the inquiry. On Tuesday they sent letters to nine leading data brokers, requesting information on how consumer data is collected and sold.

Acxiom and other data brokers typically push for self-regulation. The New York Times first looked at Acxiom in June.

"It peers deeper into American life than the F.B.I. or the I.R.S., or those prying digital eyes at Facebook and Google," the article read. "If you are an American adult, the odds are that it knows things like your age, race, sex, weight, height, marital status, education level, politics, buying habits, household health worries, vacation dreams - and on and on."

The company has openly stated it has some information on at least 98 percent of the American adult population. Chief Privacy Officer Jennifer Barrett Glasgow said Acxiom executives have testified before Congress on the company's privacy policies.

In Wednesday's New York Times article, Glasgow said Acxiom is "happy to provide whatever information we can to further inform interested parties."

In a statement to Arkansas Business, the company said it has "long worked in the legislative and regulatory arena and with consumer groups to further inform interested parties. 

 

"The Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus has asked us detailed questions about our business," the company said. "We are delighted to help them understand our company, and the industry we serve better."

Acxiom also pointed out that it recently updated its website "to answer common questions about our use of data. At the site, people can also enter their own questions and we'll answer those too."

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., told the New York Times that his and the other lawmakers' letter is not a subpoena, but other industries have complied with his requests in the past.

"We have gone from an era of data keepers to this new era where data reapers are able to create very complex profiles of every American," he said.

The letter requests a list of data sources, specific consumer data collected, descriptions of collection methods, product and service descriptions, details on federal regulations, security measures and self-regulation details like the company's opt-out policies.