Chad Engelgau is the CEO of Acxiom, a data broker that operates one of the world’s biggest repositories of consumer information. The company claims to have granular details on more than 2.5 billion people across 62 different countries. The chances that Acxiom knows a whole lot about you, reader, are good.
In many respects, data brokering is a shadowy enterprise. The industry mostly operates in quiet business deals the public never hears about, especially smaller firms that engage with data on particularly sensitive subjects. Compared to other parts of the tech industry, data brokers face little scrutiny from regulators, and in large part they evade attention from the media.
You almost never directly interact with a company like Acxiom, but its operation intersects with your life on a near constant basis through a byzantine pipeline of data exchanges. Acxiom is in the business of identity, helping other companies figure out who you are, what you’re like, and how you might be persuaded to spend money. Got a list of a list of 50,000 of your customers’ names? Acxiom can tell you more about them. Want to find the perfect audience for your next ad campaign—perhaps people who’ve gone through bankruptcy or Latino families that spend a lot on healthcare? Acxiom knows where to look.
It shows again though that your data related to a single service may not say very much about you, but when you aggregate all your data, including metadata, and are able to contextualise that, it starts to reveal a lot about individuals, including the linking of anonymised data. Partly this also because every business / bank / government departments wants our contact numbers and identity / social security numbers when we register with them or apply for benefits or credit etc.
See An Interview With the Guy Who Has All Your Data
It's 10 pm. Do you know where your data is? Chad Engelgau does. He's the CEO of Acxiom, a data broker. Your info is probably on one of his servers.