In fact, there are some companies that are making tens of millions of dollars by gathering every shred of information about all of us that they can and selling it for profit to anyone willing to pay the price. It is called "data mining", and these data miners want to keep track of literally everything that you do. Most people know that basically everything that we do on the Internet is tracked, but data mining goes far beyond that.
When you use a customer rewards card at the supermarket, the data miners know about it. When you pay for a purchase with a credit card or a debit card, the data miners know about it. Every time you buy a prescription drug, that information is sold to someone. Every time you apply for a loan, a whole host of organizations is notified.
Information has become an extremely valuable commodity, and thanks to computers and the Internet it is easier to gather information than ever before. But that also means that our personal information is no longer "private", and this trend is only going to get worse in the years ahead.
The scale of the information gathering that Acxiom does is absolutely mind blowing. If you can believe it, Acxiom actually keeps track of more than 190 million people inside the United States....The company fits into a category called database marketing. It started in 1969 as an outfit called Demographics Inc., using phone books and other notably low-tech tools, as well as one computer, to amass information on voters and consumers for direct marketing.
Almost 40 years later, Acxiom has detailed entries for more than 190 million people and 126 million households in the U.S., and about 500 million active consumers worldwide. More than 23,000 servers in Conway, just north of Little Rock, collect and analyze more than 50 trillion data 'transactions' a year. So what does Acxiom want to know about you? Everything.
It peers deeper into American life than the F.B.I. or the I.R.S., or those prying digital eyes at Facebook and Google. If you are an American adult, the odds are that it knows things like your age, race, sex, weight, height, marital status, education level, politics, buying habits, household health worries, vacation dreams — and on and on. Once they gather all that data, Acxiom analyzes it, packages it and sells it to large corporations such as Wells Fargo, HSBC, Toyota, Ford and Macy's.
At some point could all of our personal information be used for more insidious purposes? One thing is for sure - this is a trend that is not going away any time soon. As our society becomes even more integrated through the Internet, data gathering is going to become even more comprehensive.
Eventually these complicated computer algorithms will be able to make very detailed predictions about your future behavior with a very, very high degree of accuracy. When you add government snooping into the equation, it becomes easy to see why privacy advocates are going crazy these days. Our society is literally being transformed into a technological monitoring grid. Virtually everything we do is monitored, tracked and recorded in some way.