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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Abacus on the Move Again...with Your Sensitive Data

Abacus Acquired by Data Broker Epsilon

The end of 2006 brought another move by the Abacus Alliance—so-named because it has the sensitive data from over 60 million households, representing hundreds of your junk mail catalog company purchases—from parent DoubleClick to another data broker by the name of Epsilon. You may remember how, when DoubleClick bought Abacus from its original owners in 1999, they attempted to combine 100 million private Internet profiles with the Abacus database. The whole thing was eventually stopped, and was even rebuffed by junk mailers.

Why Should You Be Concerned?

To begin with, those 62 million households made 257 million purchases from catalogs such as Brookstone, National Geographic, Restoration Hardware and Sharper Image using sensitive data such as credit card account numbers. That private information is now in the hands of Epsilon, a data giant on its own, with 227 million consumer names, including over 1000 demographic and lifestyle attributes. There is nothing to prevent Epsilon from marrying the two databases, providing additional insight into your daily activities. By the way, back in February of 2006, Epsilon had already acquired DoubleClick’s Email Solutions unit, one of the largest permission-based email marketing service providers in the industry.

It Gets Worse

Epsilon is owned by Alliance Data Systems, a leading provider of credit card purchasing activity services, with nearly 90 million accounts on file, resulting from 2.7 billion annual transactions. Alliance also does data mining/predictive modeling to, “…create intelligence, predict behavior, anticipate expectations and optimize customer economics.” Their words. Another behemoth like ChoicePoint, Acxiom and LexisNexis. One more location for your name and personal data to reside, and be manipulated to pry into every aspect of your inner-sanctum.

Why You Should Worry

I know you enjoy the conveniences of fast credit, shopping online, and even the loyalty programs that offer discounts from your local super market. But in each case your sensitive data is in jeopardy, and with organized crime now leading the way, the identity crisis can only worsen. And, there is no reason that you shouldn’t continue with these beneficial programs and add even new ones in the future. However, you must first be given control over your name and private information by business and government, in order to supervise its distribution. As an added benefit, you should be paid each time it is sold.

No End in Sight with Big Brother the Eventual Outcome

The Bush/Cheney administration, and many Republican members of Congress, would like nothing better than the merging of enough data companies that would allow the government to go to one source to do its domestic surveillance. The business community would salivate over this ability to pry into the lives of their customers. And folks, it is possible today by tying together an Epsilon, ChoicePoint, Acxiom, LexisNexis, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, in a network that could recreate George Orwell’s Big Brother in the year 2007.

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