[Politech] Google in plans to buy Acxiom data-mining firm [priv]

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 10:19:02 PST

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    Just to be clear, the HHS RFID article was an April Fool's day joke. I 
    certainly hope this one is as well! --Declan
    -----Begin forwarded message -----
    Google plans to buy data mining firm
    Published: April 1 2004 12:33 | Last Updated: April 1 2004 12:33
    Google is in negotiations to purchase Acxiom Corporation, the massive
    data warehousing company that has been embroiled in numerous privacy
    scandals over the last few years.
    Sources close to the talks said Thursday that the search engine company 
    hoped to use Acxiom's databases, which feature information on nearly 
    every American family, to optimize search results, share more 
    information with law enforcement, and target advertisements with greater 
    accuracy. Acxiom's expertise is intended to allow Google to make money 
    from its new Gmail concept, which gives every user a gigabyte of free 
    email space.
    "This is a great way to leverage Acxiom's industry-leading collections
    of personal information on Americans and deliver more value to all of
    Google's customers and advertisers," a Google executive participating
    in the talks said. While no details are final, one source said the
    purchase could be around $1.8 billion, an affordable sticker price for
    a company valued at over $15 billion in an expected initial public
    Acxiom, based in Little Rock, Ark., sells police and corporate customers 
    products including InfoBase, touted as the "largest collection of U.S. 
    consumer" data, and Personicx, which tracks the "specific consumer 
    behavior" of almost every American and can sort households into one of 
    70 distinctive segments. Acxiom and JetBlue were involved in a scandal 
    last year after providing personal information on Americans to the 
    Transportation Security Administration, and documents obtained under the 
    Freedom of Information Act show that Acxiom would have been a primary 
    source for the Defense Department's short-lived Total Information 
    Awareness project.
    To offset the cost of providing up to 1 GB of email storage, Google 
    plans to employ real-time customer data integration (CDI) to target 
    offers based on the link between email content and information about 
    each family in Acxiom's vast databases. "This is a truly innovative, 
    unique solution that provides consumers with real value," said a source 
    close to Acxiom Company Leader Charles Morgan. "Because we know their 
    drugstore shopping habits, CDI can show them ads for condom, birth 
    control pills, or day-after pills, whichever is most appropriate."
    Google spokesman Nate Tyler declined to comment on the proposed
    Lisa Dean, chief privacy officer for the Transportation Security
    Administration, applauded the proposed deal, noting that the CDI
    system would be designed to detect terrorist conversations in Gmail
    and forward the relevant email correspondence to law enforcement.
    Because Google sets what's known as a "cookie" that records all
    searches ever done on a specific computer, it has accumulated a wealth
    of data about hundreds of millions of Internet users. By linking that
    CDI data with Acxiom's information about family income, shopping
    habits, and bank account balances, Google expects itself to be in the
    enviable, and profitable, position of being the largest personal
    information repository on the planet.
    Acxiom's shares increased 2.8 percent Thursday to $22.58 on word of the 
    pending deal. In anticipation of the purchase, Acxiom on Wednesday cut 
    230 jobs and upped its earnings estimate for the fourth quarter ending 
    March 31.
    Company sites:
    ----- End forwarded message -----
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