Yes, Big Brother Really Is Watching You, Part 1 of 2

Big Data Watching YouAs consumers, we get grumpy and resentful at the thought of large corporations watching and analyzing our behaviors: social, search, buying, etc. All that aggregation of data…is it really necessary? Why can’t I have my social media platforms for free without any “strings attached”? They’ve gotten all of that funding from venture capitalists and going public with their IPOs. Shouldn’t they pay for my Internet and social access?

The answer is: No. There really is no such thing as a FREE LUNCH. There is always a catch. As consumers, it is our choice to participate or abstain from the data aggregation that surrounds us on a daily basis. However, for those of you who think you have escaped and are officially “off the grid,” simply by posting a legal notice on Facebook or even canceling your account, you are sadly mistaken in your belief that you have protected your privacy rights.

Every corporation that transacts with you is tracking and sharing your data. For example: Your Vons card is not so much a loyalty card as a means for tracking your purchases and allocating spend on a per household instead of a per customer basis. That enables them to tell how many members of your family purchase under the same account, how frequently you buy certain products, and if you are motivated by special offers or not. All of this data, in turn, is shared with the manufacturers of the food products as a means for deciding if they want to participate in a co-promotion with Vons to discount a particular food item or category. Vons also tracks this data to determine what offers to share in certain zip codes via their circulars. They’ve even taken it one step further to offer deeper discounts within their Vons mobile app as a way to track more intimately your spending habits. From their perspective, it’s a win-win. You get the discount and they get the data.

The same goes for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and all of the other social platforms plus Google, Bing, and Yahoo!, which are still trying to figure out how to monetize their offering. By aggregating data on a per geographic, age, gender, interests, household income, and more basis, they can offer highly targeted ad options to their online advertisers. You might say: “I don’t want them combing through my posts to determine if I am a wine lover or a parent of a small child.” They would respond: “If I was going to show ads to you, wouldn’t you rather they were relevant and appropriate to your interests?”

If you want to learn more about the digital path of a supermarket purchase, click here.

In the next article, we will dive deeper into how big data affects marketing, and how it may not be as bad as consumers think.

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