There are plenty of ways that companies can profile you online, and myriad reasons for them to do it. A potential employer may be reading your digital fingerprint, not just to aggregate the content of what you say and do online, but to use the context of your posts to determine the kind of person you are.
In November, IBM (IBM) announced it was putting the finishing touches on software that could read through your Twitter (TWTR) and Facebook (FB) posts to decide whether or not you’re an ideal fit for a job, or an ideal target consumer for a particular advertisement. Those who use longer words, for instance, are supposed to get along better with coworkers, while independent people tend to use the word “school” more than the average amount.
Consumers are becoming online big data guinea pigs too, for all the wrong reasons.
Facebook recently announced that in 2012 — as part of an effort to determine if too much good news posted on a user’s newsfeed was depressing (for comparative reasons) — it deliberately displayed an inordinate amount of negative news. Fortunately, the company found out that users didn’t begrudge the happiness of other users, but it raises the question … why perform such an experiment in the first place?
How do we know a company that’s willing to yank a user’s chain won’t also be willing to spur specific feelings in an effort to spur clicks on certain kinds of advertisements? We don’t.
Big Data Personalization Will Accelerate Adoption
The new Walmart e-commerce strategy seems relatively benign, and it is. Still, the bigger big data gets, the faster and bigger it can get in the future. And, with Walmart — the word’s biggest retailer — leveraging its big data to the hilt, it’s pretty safe to say the practice of using big data is the new norm. What would be odd now is if a corporation wasn’t trying to profile a consumer, or at least trying to buy access to the data packed within a profile.
With all of that being said, while a few conspiracy theorists still protest the advent of digital profiling, there’s a distinct lack of balking from consumers anymore when it comes to suggesting (and even predicting) online purchases. We’re at the point where people and their portable, web-enabled devices have become one.
Indeed, with smartphones and data becoming cheaper as well as being perceived as more beneficial, the rate of mobile-web adoption is poised to accelerate, further prodding the implementation of big data marketing efforts. Big data and targeted marketing will be old news within two years, if only because consumers have forgotten there was a time when digital profiling didn’t exist.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.