I notice many people don't know or think that corporations use customer cards for more than a discount. I worked for one of the largest retailers in the U.S. and learned how far the "Plus" card data really goes. All of that data is sold as very in detailed profiles of customers to brokers who sell the data to other corporations and institutions.
I worked for them for 10 years and watched it evolve from data harvesting through rewards cards to utilizing the checkout as an avenue of further data collection through facial recognition cameras and even heat sensors throughout the store building heat maps of customer flow.
I am not sure exactly about the heat map data being sold or not, however, I am sure some broker could find a market for it but I do know the checkout camera data was sold.
The company started utilizing the card system in the 90's and its checkout camera with heat mapping in the early 2010's. Personally, I never used a customer card with my name or address just to maintain some privacy level.
I'm interested in hearing more about the point of sale tracking and facial recognition though. Was face recognition just being used to track customers around the store through to checkout? Or are you suggesting that 'face id' data was captured and shared alongside purchasing activity, tied to the individual to a 3rd party??
This covered a large area but the only area using this at the time. The face ID system worked with the thermal mapping, which was used throughout the store, to create a projected customer volume for the front end management to prepare for. For instance the system tells the team that they have 1 register open but need 3 open now and 5 in 1 hour.
The data from the facial recognition cameras was sold, this I know for certain, however, I do not know to what amount that data was put into the specific customer profile being built. My honest impression is it was being sold in a package with card profiles to make a better product for brokers.
I've gone through meetings of how much this company wants to track you, how granular the specific customer profile was before the face & heat map system and the companies drive to find a place in the newer data markets that its competition was dealing in, in order to stay in business.
The face recognition piece is something I'm still trying to wrap my head around. If they were selling facial recognition data to a 3rd party, and this is a common practice within the industry, there is (presumably) an intermediary that has a very comprehensive view of all consumer purchasing behavior in a given geography and can (potentially) track people in real-time.
Can you comment on some of the data brokers / tech players in this space [?] Is it the likes of acxiom? I've seen data being purchased where there's mastercard & visa purchase information, but it was all in aggregate and for silly things like banner advertising. I'm curious at who's in this space and how they're monetizing this data. It sounds like a (potential) goldmine for market researchers, marketers and manufacturers.
Also, were there any mechanisms to stop competing retailers from buying this data and luring away loyal customers?
Can I name specific players who are brokers/buyers?
To put it simply no, I was never made aware to whom the company sold this information to exactly. I would be highly interested to know the specifics of this part of chain as well. I was lower in the totem pole with friends and good relations further up that made me aware of the practices.
In my role, we were told details on the collection of information and how the company used it in house. Those higher up were made aware of the practices I mentioned earlier and through conversations with multiple people who would know, it was made abundantly clear that this was going on and our competition was participating in similar practices as well.
How was it monetized?
So specifically, I can speak to the rewards card aspect and what the profiles looked like to us and what I was told happens to them when sold. Although I'm sure you probably know, when I say "plus" card or "rewards" card, I am referring to an in-house system that the customer signs up for in the store with personal information which they are then given a card for that retailer which gives lower prices and "bonus" coupons sent by mail, until coupons moved to a digital format. Some retailers do it differently but with ours, it was almost a necessity to have it just to shop there due to price differences. It would be much more expensive to not use our card system .
When the customer signs up, they are asked Name, Age, Address and Phone Number. Scanning the card at checkout gave the customer those possible savings advertised on shelf as well as later on in its role, the customer would have E-coupons loaded directly on to the account that this card was tied, which were based off of the buying habits and influenced by seasonal changes.
It put a list of everything you ever bought and applied that to the information given upon signing up such as age and where you lived which gave information on the demographics of the customer(I am not sure if it was in-house or if this was a third party's work).
It was shortly before I left in about 2014 that we had meetings discussing just how much data was in the card holder profile. Again not sure if all this was done by them but we talked about buying habits, health and wellbeing status based on diet, income, frequency of trips, gasoline purchases in our fuel centers and major gasoline player who had a partnership with us and there was specifically a push for the card system to be moved over to an app that gave the company location data. This was something they really were pushing for at the time.
So these profiles of a customer were sold in bundles of groupings. Demographics of a certain type would be in this group or that group based on what they could ascertain through your buying habits and social standings with groups of similar incomes.
From my understanding people in multiple industries were buying this so that could utilize a subset of the data within the profile to target certain people or build a profile of a certain area to get better ideas of future business opportunities possibly coming to those locations and how to maximize their profits by tailoring the services to that area.
How it got to them and how it was applied with facial recognition data, I was not aware of, only that it was also being sold in some way. I did not know what if any rules there were on competitors data and how that was handled once it went to those buying this information. I know our competition had many of the same practices that probably built similar data sets but I am thinking there were ways to mitigate anything being given out that would give an edge to competition. I say that based on how we viewed and interacted with those other stores and my employer were obsessive of getting the smallest of advantage over everyone around them.
I am sorry this is so long but I wanted to give what I could in as much details as I had. Its a very interesting topic that people are shocked by when they learn about it. I also wish I could give exact players further along the supply chain but I don't have the facts on that specific although, as I said, I would be very interested to know myself.
Perfect example of how there will always be a company that will do whatever they want as long as local laws don't prohibit it.
Both Walgreens and the company making the technology are based in a place where this is illegal.
It really feels to me like the line between public and private needs to be re-evaluated, and even though life will go on anyways, the future worries me quite a bit.
I recently went into a local Best Buy location after not having stepped inside one in about 10 years...
...aside from being impressed at how low the price was for a Samsung 85" QLED 4K television (about $3k USD - dirt cheap IMHO) - I was more intrigued by the price labels on the racks and such.
It was something I only noticed after being there for 30 minutes or so, which either shows my age, lack of awareness, or something like that - or it shows just how things now blend in.
All of the labels were some kind of "e-ink" based wireless tagging system.
They had fooled me for a good while that they were the old-style paper labels that BB used to use, stuck in slip-case transparent windows on or near the merchandise. To my eyes, they were almost flawless. Looking closer, I could see certain issues that (besides the fact of the electronic frame they were in - which was really thin and subtle) revealed their true nature: Missing pixels, jaggies (like a bad fax), etc.
Best Buy used to be "the place" I went for electronics, when they first came to the Phoenix area (early 90s). I helped
to establish my credit using their in-store credit card system.
But that recent experience of visiting them left a bad taste in my mouth. It wasn't the price labels, or even really their prices (which really weren't too outlandish) - it was just the whole feel of the place. Something seemed off about it, like it was trying to be something that just wasn't "it" any longer.
Kinda like how K-Mart felt when places like Target and Walmart became "big" (I find both of those places, though, to feel similar to BB as well).
The only thing I can attribute this to is how easy it has become to shop online for stuff, and the fact that I do most of my shopping online period. The only stuff I don't shop online for has been groceries and other food items. I expect that to change in the future, though.
My only other shopping experiences - and the ones I enjoy - have been at what can only be described as "second-hand marketplaces" - used book stores, surplus electronics outlets, junkyards, hamfests, etc.
Strangely, I prefer "shopping" at these places more than the general "commercial" outlets. For some reason, they are more comfortable to shop at/with - they feel less sanitized and more personal to me...
So they're just going to magically improve their models with zero real-world data?
I can hear the noses growing.
It is infuriating.
Are there any sane alternatives to advertisement today? I don't want banners and flashing ads. Is there a model of advertisement which is "pull" instead of "push"? Kind of like trade shows but for the internet? I LOVE going to trade shows. There is so much value as an industrial consumer (I am an engineer) in attending trade shows - they provide real life demonstrations, new technology, latest methods and processes, face-to-face with people and I honestly don't mind people scanning my badges because there is consent.
Consumers and the general public are always the last to benefit from "modern" advertising technology. It's always someone else who benefits, never the general public, who must cop noisy hot, overly bright video displays, or creepy surveillance so that someone makes more money selling those spaces. It's how the modern world is at the moment.
Would seem more logical to have the inlet at the base and the outlet on the roof to leverage natural convection.
It seems business models and revenue streams have prevented the pendulum from swinging the other way.
Because we didn't outlaw them, and mostly liberalised regulations around advertising. If they can, they will. It really does seem to be as simple as that.
No, you cannot click through a drink.
The corporate world and particularly finance industries have been using data to make better informed decisions for decades. The creepiness of advertising I don't mind, because it's simply based on data to provide better recommendations and makes sense if you have the data. For me it's the frequency of advertisements being shown to me all the time.
If I had to choose, I'd rather have more informed advertisements than a massive array on them. For example, when watching TV if I have to see commercials I'd rather see them about the latest graphics cards than about the new L'Oreal skin cream.
A few key factors:
1) Outside of maybe the controlled substances market, it's hard to separate people from their money.
2) B2C businesses can't survive on a simple buyer-seller relationship anymore, so they are branching into analytics-heavy BS like "customer experience" and "service design", which ironically involves a lot of covert crap like this
3) The biggest tech companies in the world harvest and sell data to B2B customers. You'll be hard pressed to find a successful software company not Apple) in this day and age that's actually selling something not based around optimizing your sales funnel and theoretically "making you more money".
Imagine the article had an ad for a privacy-respecting inventory prediction and optimization tool for grocers, and maybe a second ad for an ad blocker.
That’d be totally cool from a privacy perspective (no tracking), and the ad purchasers would be paying a premium (prime real estate) to the site (actual content producers).
However, it is harder to scale, I guess.
Search. And contextual ads. Really pretty much what Google executed its meteoric rise on. But so 2005, right?
And the reason they're creepy today, along with the rest of the surveillance economy, is that wasn't enough.
I grew up in the 90's so I don't remember much about Yellow Pages. Wouldn't it be great to have a Yellow Page full of, say for example, headphone manufacturers? As a company, they pay a monthly fee to be on the list just like old Yellow Pages. When I am thinking about purchasing Headphones, I go to this list (which btw would be devoid of any referral links to Amazon, etc. and would only have the subscription of the list membership as a revenue model) and see a list of various manufacturers. Clicking the link takes me to a page that describes their products in all its glory - like a full page ad. I am ready to be convinced and I wouldn't mind all kinds of ways to convince me why I should buy your headphones. If I don't like it, I hit back and I am now looking at other manufacturers.
May be a startup idea? This would truly be a "pull" because I am actively seeking headphones and I don't want to go to some stupid article titled "Top 10 headphones of 2019!" full of bullshit opinions only to get me to click a referral link.
Creepy is the right word. It might even be too soft; some of my non-technical friends would probably prefer "target that needs to be razed".
> The idea ... is interesting.
The Teller-Ulam design is "interesting". That doesn't justify using it.
Ads are the least interesting use for behavioral data. Why are you ignoring all of the other uses (including malicious uses)?
> make these annoying ads more accurate,
The idea that target advertising's purpose is to make ads less annoying or more accurate is a scam. Advertising isn't concerned with your interests, it's there to get you to buy something. Ads of often more annoying on purpose, in an effort to get you to notice it. Targeting can make your ads less "accurate" (from your perspective) because you don't need to be pushed toward buying things in which you are already interested. Instead, targeting lets people that want to change your mind about needing a product show their ad only to people like you.
> the survelliance will reduce shop lifting and provide more details to authorities by pinpointing suspects
This is exactly the type of additional use-case I was talking about. Now what about when (not if) malicious actors get their hands on that data? Or it gets sold to your insurance company?
The market is a hidden-information game. If you know that I need the medicine or I'll die, you can charge me every cent I own for it and I have to pay. If I know that you need to sell to make your monthly repayments, I know I can lowball you. The party with the most information is at an advantage. And invading peoples' privacy puts them at a commercial disadvantage.
A super market app on your smartphone (which was installed for coupons) pops up a notification on Tuesday to remind you to get condoms. Based on your history it knows you pick them up on the way home (it's date night).
Your wife gets personalized discounts on sanitary pads on the 12th every month because it knows her cycle based on transaction history.
A pro-life organization purchases whole sale data from one of the analytics firms and harasses those who get the morning after pill.
At this point it's too late. As a consumer you have no choice, there is no competition left in the market place that doesn't do this.
If journalists make a big noise about it at some point the chains argue this subsidizes the price of basic produce which directly helps those on low income. Now the message is if you value privacy, you ~hate the poor~.
I wouldn’t mind having a pair of those right now actually.
Hmm, that's so different from what the purpose of a grocery store is supposed to be right?
I mean, I guess grocery stores already do this in some ways, in choosing what to feature... they do effectively 'advertise' certain products. But this seems more like it's trying to manipulate my behaviours, rather than trying to fulfill my desires as well as possible. I'm not sure how different it is... but it feels a lot different to me.
Part of this is why I prefer to shop at Business Costco for a lot of things. While I am sure a similar tactic is being done, it is being aimed at other businesses - and since I am not a business, it doesn't affect me as much (though it does confuse me why they place certain things side by side - but if you think about it like what businesses are looking for and the type of business - then the placements make more sense).
It shouldn't come as any surprise then that the content served up will be half-hearted blog posts from corporations and start ups done solely for lead generation. Plus there are those shysters that use keyword-stuffed titles to rank well, like "Ultimate beginner's guide to Amazon AWS (2019)".
I'm not even going to mention Youtube's recommendation pane because I have no idea how they linked my video views of music tracks and sports highlights to recommend a 1 hour Jordan Peterson lecture or an "ultimate feminist cringe compilation".
Let's not forget that casinos have been doing everything everyone is paranoid about in this thread for decades, and not just with cameras. Players cards, RFID chips, facial recognition, relationship databases... Have you ever seen a sign saying "hey, this camera uses facial recognition to track your path between blackjack, the bathroom, and the craps table"? Of course not, they all look exactly like the security cameras everywhere else.
In contrast, these nasty CoolerScreen things are there to extract value from your interactions with them (without consent). The bulk of this will go directly into CoolerScreens' pockets. A small pittance will likely be given to the shop owners to keep them happy. What's in it for you, the consumer? Absolutely nothing.
> I couldn't care less if they know what kind of soda I like
You creeping intrusiveness will stop with beverage preferences? What if certain beverages are correlated with political leaning, like veganism?
It looks like they're tracking aggregate statistics at most.
Imagine if you have prices which seem reasonable, but there is an eye tracker which doubles the price on anything you are looking at. In olden days, you would kind of have that situation with a shopkeeper and no price labels, but then you would get to haggle. Now, you can't argue with it.
Is what it'll be like 10 years from now.