Thursday, January 16, 2014

using data for good or evil?

today's haul from amazon
there was a time when amazon emails seemed to read my very mind. they suggested things to me based on the things i'd bought over the years and i felt like it was as close to browsing in a real bookstore as you could get online. sadly, they seem to have changed them and they're not like that anymore, now they're just sending me the same ads for crap electronics and pulp fiction that they send to everyone. i feel like we've drifted apart and they don't know me at all. and maybe in some way, that's a good thing. i'm less tempted when i get an amazon mail (in fact, i usually just delete without looking now) and maybe it means they're saving less of my data, so they actually don't know me as well.

many stores in denmark have gotten onboard the loyalty card bandwagon. the one i actually use is matas, which is a shop that sells makeup, perfume and body care products. i like the mails i get from them and i feel like they're using the data about what i purchase wisely, to target the mails to my desires. plus, they have cooperation with other shops, like clothing stores and even the shop where i got my glasses. you earn points when you shop and you can buy things, even nice things, with those points. thanks to my very expensive prescription, i've been able to get a nice hair dryer set, perfume, shampoo, hairspray, nail polish and lotion. they come in pretty packages and it feels like getting a present. in fact, i even gave sabin the hair dryer as a christmas present. it's a loyalty card program that i can get into.

but i'll admit that handing over that card feels a little like i'm voluntarily letting big brother look over my shoulder. if they're tracking my buying habits at the grocery store (you can also have a card there) or in ikea (where they appeal to your altruistic side by donating some miniscule amount to save the children every time you shop) or at h&m, what does that mean in the long run? and what are they doing with your data? do they share it with others? and if so, which others?

i just got a new cartridge for our soda stream in the local imerco (a homewares chain) and she asked if i had a card. i had one at one point, but didn't get it switched over to my current wallet, so i said to her that i did, but that i had just read an article about such cards and was feeling like i no longer wanted to use them. there was another woman in the store who, uncharacteristically for a dane, piped up and said she thought such cards were great because then the stores know what you would like to buy. i would argue that they don't. they only know what i did buy and have absolutely no idea about what i might have actually wanted to buy. they know what i settled for, because what i really wanted wasn't there.

i think with all of the nsa spying exposed by edward snowdon, i am more suspicious of such things. tho' i have no qualms, as i write here on my free blogger blog, and use my gmail in the chrome browser, at turning my every thought and interaction over to google. i am more suspicious of facebook, but still, i give them an awful lot of my data as well. i just can't see that they're using it wisely, as the ads they show me there have never had anything to do with what i like or would be interested in. google, on the other hand, really gets me, which is maybe why i don't find it evil that they have my data.

what do you think? do you participate in loyalty programs? are we already so entrenched in the matrix that there's no way out?

* thanks, bill, for getting me thinking about this. 

4 comments:

ladyfi said...

That's a lovely shot! I've bought The Goldfinch too, but haven't started it yet.

will said...

Ha! Just wait, Big Brother Google is watching you and if you deviate from accepted norms and practices, they will replace you with your doppelganger ... And you ... you'll find yourself, mind-wiped with a new name, "Dixie" but everyone calls you "Hon" ... you'll be living in a 10-wide and working at an IHop in west Texas while your ex is bugging you for more dough for his gambling habit...

julochka said...

ladyfi - i read some not-so-good reviews AFTER i placed the order, but time will tell.

will - how did you know i was considering a completely new alias? are you actually google?

Sammi Egan said...

I've two 'loyalty' cards, The Boots Advantage Card and the Tesco Clubcard. My whole family uses the clubcard so all of our shopping goes onto it. I like the Boots card because the points add up well and a few times a year I get free shampoo & conditioner, and at Christmas I tend to get a ton of points which I can use towards gifts the following year.

I totally agree with facebook- every time I log into my profile it's asking me a million questions about where I've lived, why I don't have a full address, mobile no, relationship listed on there. It's very annoying. I prefer twitter these days, I like being more anonymous.