The Marketing Data Creep-Out

By February 23, 2012Social Media

I’m a huge fan and user of social media. I have plenty of profiles out there and love to share relevant information, events in my life, pictures of my family and friends or where my band is going to be playing next. I’m also a big debit card and CVS swiper, so I’m not too worried about purchasing data being collected when I shop.

But the story that came out last week in Forbes about Target’s data collection practices was just a serious creep-out. Apparently, Target was interested in whether, through purchase data obtained at the checkout counter, they could determine whether someone was pregnant and if so, how far along she was. They would then use that data to send said someone offers for baby-related products.

In one such Minnesota case, Target determined a certain someone was pregnant before her father did. As it turns out, the father of this someone opened some mail addressed to his teenage daughter, only to see these offers. Appropriately appalled, he then went to his local Target store to complain. In the end, after a talk with his daughter, he learned that she was in fact pregnant and admitted it sheepishly to the Target rep he had previously berated.

I’m not sure what’s creepier—that Target (and no doubt many others) collect data in this much detail about someone without their knowledge, or that it’s so powerful and predictive. I have to admit that my first reaction to this article is that I wanted to quit using debit cards forever and seriously dial back my social media use. I felt violated and dirty, and it wasn’t even about me. Jay Dolan wrote a hilarious post about this as well, right here.

I have decided I am not a fan of behavioral targeting, Big Data, or ceding control of my life to those who are. But it feels more and more like in order to function in today’s digital society, you have to basically throw in the towel and let them see whatever they want. Cash is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. So is privacy.

What do you think? Is this creepy to you also, or am I overreacting?


  • KellyWatson says:

    I wrote about this in my review of Martin Lindstrom’s latest book, “Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds & Persuade Us to Buy.” A little skepticism is healthy, but the media tends to sensationalize the consequences of behavior targeting while leaving out the benefits: better relevance for consumers.

  • rustyspeidel says:

     @KellyWatson OK, but a what cost? Having an from Zappo’s follow me around all day after I click on a link does not make me feel better about Zappo’s. It makes me feel stalked. I guess I’m not a big shopper, but I can’t help but feel we’ve lost control of the process.