It may seem like an odd question considering that most people have never even heard of Acxiom Corp., but the answer may surprise you. Acxiom specializes in providing information to organizations that want to market products and services. Since the mid-1980s, Acxiom has been gathering information and building a special file called InfoBase. InfoBase now contains some or all of the following facts on 195 million Americans: home ownership, age, estimated income, cars owned, occupation, buying habits, types of credit cards used, children and even height and weight. In 1995 alone, Acxiom sifted through the InfoBase file and created prospect lists totaling 3.7 billion people. Consider what Acxiom has done for the two organizations below.
Marriott Vacation Club International: Just like Disney Resort who sells time-share vacation to prospect customers, Marriott Club Vacation International is exploiting all types of information in hopes of selling vacation time shares. Initially, Marriott provided Acxiom with a list of names, mostly hotel guests. Then Acxiom sifts through motor vehicle records, property records, warranty records, and list of people who have made purchases through the mail in search of Marriott’s hotel guests. When a match is found, Acxiom provides additional information such as children’s age, what cars they drive, and even if they play golf.
Allstate Corp.: For Allstate, Acxiom retrieves an insurance applicant’s credit reports, driving records, claims history, and family relationships (just in case you have a relative who likes to speed). Acxiom then electronically passes that information to Allstate’s automated underwriting system. Because of the speed with which Acxiom can provide the information, Allstate can confirm a price on a new policy in 1 to 5 days, down from 35 days in 1989.
1. What is the role of information technology at Acxiom? Could it still maintain and provide such a wealth of information without using IT?
IT in the company Acxiom is important in being able to maintain the huge database it has because it holds information of 195 million Americans. IT can also help Acxiom to organize and customize the information it holds about its customers. Acxiom can still be able to provide such accurate and wealthy information regarding its customers but it would be more expensive and it would be very hard to keep track of the millions and millions of information that they have about their customers.
2. What are the ethical and legal issues relating to the fact that Acxiom may know your height and weight and is certainly willing to sell that information if the price is right? Can Acxiom legally own that information and sell it to any and every organization? How does it make you feel to know that your personal information is available for the right price?
When ethics becomes a part of the story, of course, any company being able to acquire your personal information, including your weight and height, would feel a whole lot like an invasion of personal space or of privacy. All the more reason to be alarmed would probably be knowing that these intimate information about an individual is being sold to companies. But of course, this kind of companies would consider legal matters when it comes to these acquisition of personal information. They would probably have researched and acquired of these information in a legal manner and have every right to be able to sell these information to other companies and other organizations.
3. Within each information attributes that helps define quality; timeliness (do you have it when you need it?), location (can you access it anywhere?), form (is it in the correct format that you need, e.g. audio, text, video etc.?) and validity (is it reliable and credible?), what attributes are most important to Allstate when receiving information from Acxiom? What about Marriott – which attributes are most important when receiving information from Acxiom?
For Marriott and AllState, Acxiom provides them information of the hotel guests and for insurance applicants, respectively.
For Marriott, I think what’s most important for them is timeliness and quality of the information. Timeliness is most important because they are in the hotel business and hotel guests do not stay for a long time in the hotels so being able to send the information needed as soon as possible is important. Quality should also be considered because the hotel needs thorough information regarding their guests.
For AllState, it would probably be the same with Marriot’s. Quality, like thorough detailed information about the insurance applicant must be provided in order to be able to properly determine whether or not the applicant is fit to be approved an insurance or not. Timeliness is also key because they should be able to receive the information as soon as possible.
4. Do some research and find other companies/organizations that specialize in providing marketing information. What companies did you find? Do they provide information on people all over the country or just in your town or state? Did any of these companies state that they could provide the height and weight of individuals?
Some of the companies I found that also sell personal information to other companies are the following:
• US Search
• USA People Search
• White Pages
These companies mentioned are mostly found in the United States. Usually, to get information about an individual, these companies ask is to upload the person’s email address and they use this to get the age, gender and other details about the person.
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