Friday, February 17, 2012


Profiling your shopping and internet habits helps businesses target you with merchandise that you are likely to need or want.

How accurate is it? Well Time is carrying a story today that might just blow your mind. I am not sure where to begin.  Target assigns each shopper a unique ID number. Every time a shopper purchases something with their credit card, fills out a survey or confirms there phone number, the purchase is stored in a file assigned to the ID number.

Statisticians mine your purchase history for trends and make predictions on future buying habits,

A high school student  from Minnesota started to receive coupons for cribs, diapers and children's toys.  Her father got very annoyed and took the matter up with Target. He demanded that they stop targeting his daughter with these offers.

It turns out that his daughters purchasing habits led the statisticians to predict that this shopper was pregnant.  They actually were able to estimate her due date and target specific stages of her pregnancy.

Yes, Target knew she was pregnant and had a good idea of her due date way before mom and dad!

Sure, I am pleased when Amazon or Chapters sends me e-mail identifying new releases that might interest me based on previous buying habits, but I gotta say this story makes me feel a little paranoid.
This data is collected in lots of ways, such as tracking devices (like cookies) on websites that allow a company to identify you as you travel around the Web and apps you download that look at your contact list and location. You know how everything has seemed free for the past few years? It wasn't. It's just that no one told you that instead of using money, you were paying with your personal information. 

Google Inc. recently announced that it will consolidate  more than 60 of its privacy policies making it easier for advertisers to target users. When the new policy comes into effect on March 1, information from most Google products will be treated as a single trove of data.

Google misrepresented its privacy practices by not disclosing the benefits advertisers will reap from access to the consolidated data of users. Aggregated data will give advertisers access to information about users that they were not privy to before.

It is almost enough to convince me to start using cash to stay off the corporate tracking radar. 

1 comment:

Greg said...

or use a "black" computer and a ip masking service. It's not that hard really to travel fairly unnoticed around the internet.

...its a war you know.