Ever Wondered About What Happened to the Target Pregnancy Targeting.

Hah.  And we thought the NSA is a problem. Alice Marwick has written a fascinating piece in the latest NYRB on the technology and uses of data mining used by virtually all companies and government agencies to learn as much as they can about each and everyone who has ever used the Internet.


"Data about your online and offline behavior are combined, analyzed, and sold to marketers, corporations, governments, and even criminals. "


Remember the story a while back of the father, incensed that his daughter was receiving coupons for new baby items, who wrote Target complaining they were encouraging teenagers to get pregnant with such advertising?  Well, he wrote back a week later apologizing because he had just learned that his daughter was pregnant. Target knew before he did. Subtly, Target found their consumers were disquieted to learn that Target knew they were pregnant, so they interwove coupons for wine and lawnmowers with the ads for baby stuff, to make it not so obvious they knew of the pregnancy and to obfuscate the real ads.  


The point is that passive and involuntary data collection goes on all the time. And we give them permission.  We surrender our privacy by agreeing to TOS's that we don't read, by traversing public streets with CCTV cameras and license identification software, by walking in a mall where we are followed by cameras, (have you read the tiny notifications on the doors of stores that tell you such things?) and by purchasing virtually anything online or in a store?


That data is being used in extremely sophisticated ways by political parties, most notably the Democrats, who could increase giving by just subtly adjusting the way their pleas were worded.


The new discrimination is against those in the bottom 20% of consumers who are identified as low-value targets, or "waste." Those are people who will cause trouble for the company without providing any value, i.e., spending a lot of money. "Do they suffer price discrimination? Poor service? Do they miss out on the offers given to others? Such discrimination is still more insidious because it is entirely invisible."  Anyone recognize him/herself in the GR Kerfuffle?

Source: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/jan/09/how-your-data-are-being-deeply-mined/?insrc=toc