Competition for your data is only getting hotter …

Internet companies and commercial data brokers already know a lot about you.  But they’re increasingly competing to figure out new ways to know even more.

Consider this report Monday from the Financial Times:  Acxiom, the Arkansas-based data broker that boasts it has information on 800 million individuals, is announcing a new program this week that promises to augment its digital dossiers by combining information from an individual consumer’s activity on multiple devices, including desktop and mobile browsers, as well as some of their offline shopping history and other data.

The news comes just a few weeks after Acxiom, which has partnerships with Facebook, Yahoo and other Internet firms, launched a new website where consumers can review and edit some – but as we reported, not all – of the data the company has collected on them.

Tracking consumer habits across multiple devices has been a challenge to a number of companies that try to deliver personalized advertising and other commercial offers.  Mobile devices generally don’t use cookies, so it’s been difficult to correlate information about desktop browsing with activity on a smartphone, for example.

But that technical hurdle may not be around for long.  Google is exploring the idea of developing its own “anonymous identifier” system to replace third-party cookies, according to a report that first surfaced last week by USA Today.  While no details have been announced, analysts say it may resemble a similar system that Apple’s been working on.

Google and Apple say their systems would give consumers more control over how they are tracked and how much information is known about them.  Still, privacy advocates have raised questions, saying the new systems could provide access to a broader range of information about an individual.

Meanwhile, some in the advertising industry worry that if Google or Apple replace cookies with their own proprietary systems, those companies will be able to charge advertisers and their agents a lot more to make use of that information.

On the other hand, the news from Acxiom suggests that plenty of other companies are also competing to learn all about you …

(Illustration by Jeff Durham/Bay Area News Group)


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