This recent article on Forbes has sparked a fair bit of interest and controversy – “How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did“. Essentially the piece is about how Target uses clever data mining techniques to discover (and sometimes predict) user behaviour and circumstance (as evidenced by the aforementioned case where they were able to predict a pregnancy…and recommend suitable baby products to the customer).
Seth Godin followed this news (not sure if there was a connection) with a great blog post about “the illusion of privacy” which made a great point…despite all the hullabaloo about privacy (or lack thereof) these days, perhaps what we’re most concerned about are unexpected surprises. This makes a lot of sense…after all, we only want so much “privacy” in our lives. Wikipedia defines the term privacy as “the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively.” We constantly reveal details about ourselves selectively in the hopes of rewards (think loyalty programs, credit cards, shopping cards), access to free services (think Facebook…or even Google) or a personalized experience. So what we’re really afraid of are people or companies that appear to know things you didn’t selectively choose to share…or perhaps didn’t realize they had access to.