We all know that companies are collecting massive amounts of data about us (or we should), but somehow we are surprised that companies actually crunch the data and act up on it. Sunday’s New York Times magazine addressed this issue looking at how Target has targeted pregnant women
“As Pole’s computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.”
Although I don’t think we should be surprised that big companies like Target know so much about us and are acting on it, it does surprise me that Target has decided to cloak how much they know about us by sending us random coupons, too.
“And we found out that as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn’t been spied on, she’ll use the coupons. She just assumes that everyone else on her block got the same mailer for diapers and cribs. As long as we don’t spook her, it works.”
This randomness is what disturbs me because are they throwing in random coupons to disguise what they know about me or just because they get better usage when they do it. Either way I think they are treading on shaky ground ethically because they are admitting they understand that the consumer doesn’t like that they know so much about them.