Is privacy a thing of the past?
Updated: March 29, 2012 4:02PM
I don’t know why I’m on Facebook. I am not computer and technology-savvy. I don’t love spending face time at the illuminated screen until my eyes glaze over. I hate the games.
Hey, just give me some updated pics and blurbs about the people I’ve got as “Friends” so I can keep up with them in this ever-busier world. That’s what I thought Facebook was for, and maybe at one time it was, or maybe I’m just completely naïve.
Now that FB is going public, much press has been written covering all the privacy disclaimers that basically saddle FB users with the reality that, as example, clicking “like” releases all their information to a plethora of sources, profitable to FB but not so much to anyone craving privacy. With almost 900 million subscribers, it is reported that their profit from those data sharing policies will soar from about $4 to $120 per subscriber. Paranoid reaction over perceived privacy threats simply so FB can make money? Or a scary omen about where personal privacy may be headed, even in the free world we know as America?
A recent online article caught my eye and reinforced why I think we have good reason to be concerned. Titled “How Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did,” Forbes says it’s true. How’d they do it? Well, you know that we communicate data about ourselves constantly. Coupons we use in stores are analyzed and fed to other retailers, for a price, in order to target-market us based on preferences shown by those coupons or purchases. Specifically with Target (and likely many other retailers as well), they assign every customer a Guest ID number with data like credit card number, name, email, even info bought from other sources. They then use those preferences as marketing tools to contact and entice customers.
One preference they found in their data is that pregnant women buy larger amounts of things like unscented lotion, supplements like calcium and magnesium, and zinc. Once customer purchases identify them with a high pregnancy score, they begin to receive mailers and coupons full of baby-related merchandise. This is what happened in the case of the teen mentioned earlier. Her father stormed into the store, questioning why his high school daughter was receiving coupons for cribs and baby clothes. The manager apologized, both immediately and later in a phone call, at which time the father sheepishly admitted having a talk with his daughter and finding out that, in fact, Target was right, she was pregnant.
Reports say that Target has since changed up the way they distribute coupons. Oh, they still target-market us, but now they throw in some “ringers” so it won’t look like we’re being monitored for preferences: the preggers’ will still get coupon booklets full of Pampers and bottles but also some coupons for wine glasses and lawn mowers.
Guess the theory is, as long as we don’t feel stalked, it’s ok to do it. I think not. Do you?
Send email to Pat Lenhoff at: email@example.com