USA Today has published a lengthy and informative article on the tactics and personal privacy problems associated with “data mining” – the growing practice used by both government and business of using modern technology and software to create detailed personal profiles of citizens and consumers by recording their behavior and saving it for analysis in databases.
From the article –
When customers sign up for a free Hotmail e-mail account from Microsoft, they’re required to submit their name, age, gender and ZIP code.
But that’s not all the software giant knows about them.
Microsoft takes notice of what time of day they access their inboxes. And it goes to the trouble of finding out how much money folks in their neighborhood earn.
Why? It knows a florist will pay a premium to have a coupon for roses reach males 30-40, earning good wages, who check their e-mail during lunch hour on Valentine’s Day.
Microsoft is one of many companies collecting and aggregating data in new ways so sophisticated that many customers may not even realize they’re being watched.
These businesses are using new software tools that can record every move a person makes online and combine that information with other data. Brick-and-mortar stores, afraid of being left behind, are ramping up data collection and processing efforts, too, says JupiterResearch analyst Patti Freeman Evans.
The result: Corporate America is creating increasingly detailed portraits of each consumer, whether they’re aware of it or not.
Companies say they can be trusted to do so responsibly. Yahoo, for instance, has a strict ban on selling data from its customer registration lists. And Microsoft says it won’t purchase an individual’s income history — just the average income from his or her ZIP code. “We’re making sure there’s a very bright line in the sand,” says spokesman Joe Doran.
Some consumers aren’t reassured. Salt Lake City lighting designer Jody Good, 54, goes to great lengths to control his personal information, including signing up for some services with false names and keeping unusually tight security settings on his PC. “I’m trying to preserve my privacy,” he says.
You can read the entire USA Today article @ Data miners dig a little deeper.