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Data mining giant’s misleading boast

For a firm like Acxiom, the old dictum "Knowledge is Power" certainly holds true. The data mining giant has built a (little known) information empire compiling information -- both publicly available and personally divulged through surveys and warranty cards -- on millions of Americans' addresses, contact information, shopping habits and more. The company builds consumer profiles to enable directed advertising. Knowing about you gives Acxiom the power to make billions.

However, when it comes to the surveilled subject, it's not so clear that knowledge equals power. More precisely: Does knowing what data giants like Acxiom know about us necessarily give us any more power? As Forbes noted, for the first time ever, Axciom, "the big daddy of all data brokers is nearly ready to show consumers their intimate personal dossiers, a move aimed at staving off public fears of Big Brother and government regulation."

The corporation is putting the motions in place to enable consumers to gain access to the consumer profiles gathered on them. Certainly, it's a push on Axciom's part towards greater transparency. But what content does this transparency really carry -- how much is the surveilled subject really empowered by knowing how and how much their behavior is tracked; the tracking, after all, is not about to stop.

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