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Big business of big data

Acxiom does a lot more than just analyze streams of transaction-generated information (our definition of big data). But TGI is an important element of what does into Acxiom’s machines.

Few consumers have ever heard of Acxiom. But analysts say it has amassed the world’s largest commercial database on consumers — and that it wants to know much, much more. Its servers process more than 50 trillion data “transactions” a year. Company executives have said its database contains information about 500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person. That includes a majority of adults in the United States.

Such large-scale data mining and analytics — based on information available in public records, consumer surveys and the like — are perfectly legal. Acxiom’s customers have included big banks like Wells Fargo and HSBC, investment services like E*Trade, automakers like Toyota and Ford, department stores like Macy’s — just about any major company looking for insight into its customers.

For Acxiom, based in Little Rock, the setup is lucrative. It posted profit of $77.26 million in its latest fiscal year, on sales of $1.13 billion.

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