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NYTimes: So Far Big Brother isn't Big business

May 07, 2000, 16:34 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Saul Hansell)

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"...'I can find out whether you are a person who lives on the edge of your credit limit or pays your bills,' he said, 'whether you are a mountain guy or a beach guy.'"

"There was only one problem: advertisers didn't much care. Most just wanted to reach as large an audience as possible. Some used the most basic pieces of data that Kane collected, aiming their messages, say, at women or college students or people in the regions where the advertisers have stores. But Kane's effort to find debt-laden beach bums or Volvo owners who read Guns and Ammo was to no avail."

"And that is the unspoken but enlightening secret about corporate America's attempt to get even more personal with its customers. For all the discussion about how the Internet is stripping consumers of whatever thin veil of privacy they have left in this world of credit bureaus and supermarket scanners, analysts have failed to recognize just how ineffective most of these data-gathering systems have been. Sure, many companies are trying to peer back through the glowing screens at Internet users, but so far no one has been able to make a big business out of being Big Brother."

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