by Luke Jones
Posted 12/23/2013 12:00 am
Updated 9 months ago
Acxiom Corp.’s AboutTheData.com site launched in early September amid equal parts fanfare and skepticism, with some lauding Acxiom for upgrading its accountability and others slamming it for inaccuracies and difficulty accessing the site.
The site allows consumers to check the type of information that the Little Rock data miner has collected, and allows them to change that information, delete it or opt out of data collection entirely.
Jennifer Barrett Glasgow, Acxiom’s global privacy and public policy executive, said the company wasn’t initially sure what to expect.
“We didn’t know if we were going to get 5,000 or 5 million visitors,” she said.
The result was somewhere in between: Since launch, the site has had around 500,000 unique visitors, and some have visited multiple times, Glasgow said.
“They usually spend three to four minutes,” she said. “If you look at the data, it takes a few minutes to go through the site. Almost half of them have registered and gone in and made changes or deleted some data, but a pretty small percentage — less than 2 — have opted out.”
She said the company is pleased that more people are altering data rather than opting out.
The three data points most often changed are political party, income and education. The three data points most often deleted are income, date of birth and political party.
So how does Acxiom feel about the site’s performance so far?
“Well, I think we accomplished our beta launch objectives,” Glasgow said. She said the objectives mainly had to do with getting the site up and running and translating Acxiom’s particular marketing language into something more understandable to consumers.
“Since we don’t deal with that many consumers on a regular basis, there are things that we understand but consumers don’t understand — like when we throw acronyms around,” she said. “It’s part of our learning process.”
She said the company is “on the course of implementing those learnings as we expand and broaden the site.”
On the other hand, about a month after the site launched, CEO Scott Howe wrote on AboutTheData.com’s blog that “we’ve made some mistakes,” specifically in communication, site glitches and explanations of particular data points.
Some of the early issues, for example, involved users not being able to find themselves.
“This is where we learned we were dealing with consumers rather than businesses,” Glasgow said. “It asked for a name, first and last, and date of birth. What we didn’t say was that our verification service requires your official name rather than a nickname or if you go by your middle name or so forth.”
Also, users were filling out the date of birth section incorrectly.
Since then, the site has changed its language to specifically request a “legal given” name, and the date of birth section was tweaked.
For the future, Glasgow said Acxiom is refining the site and addressing some of those other issues.
One recent change involved removing some duplicated elements in the user’s data section. For example, “property type” and “property type detail” showed similar data, and the latter is being removed. Also, the “ethnicity” data point was frequently shown to be inaccurate and is being tweaked.
Glasgow said Acxiom has also been working to refine the registration process. She said striking a balance in that was difficult: It can’t be so easy to register that other users’ data can be accessed, but it can’t be so difficult that users abandon the process midway through.
Beyond technical issues, Glasgow said the site should eventually be a place for consumers to educate themselves on the types of services Acxiom provides.
“We’re looking for educational things that we might put on the site to help consumers understand marketing, and so people can become less intimidated by big data, which can become overwhelming,” Glasgow said. “We’ll be adding some to that.”