BIG DATA: Good or Evil?

Blog post written by group: Sagar Kumar, Ibrahim Malik, Lalit Singh, Raghav Natarajan.

Big Data has a lot of potential, even though that potential might not be so beneficial to us. Big retail super markets are a huge influence on today’s community, with almost €60,000 to €80,000 in revenue each day. Supermarkets are able to store, save and analyse the shopping patterns and their customer’s behaviors. In a world full of data tracking us, are we really ever alone. I want to take a look at this by talking about a real life anecdote concerning the digital personal space being violated through the use of Big Data in supermarkets.

A few years ago in Minneapolis, an angry dad barged into the popular target store Target. He claimed that Target was encouraging his daughter to get pregnant because his daughter had been receiving mail of posters and coupons selling baby diapers, cribs etc. A few weeks later, after an official apology from Target, the dad wrote back to Target stating that his “daughter was due in August, I owe you an apology”

As it turns out, target’s internal algorithms had been tracking and processing his daughter’s purchases. Patterns such as certain vitamin supplements or scent free soap, were taken into account; little hints that might signal a pregnancy. Without being told, Target knew that a girl was pregnant, before her own father.

We are being tracked and followed in this digital age now more than ever before either through DNA analysis, browser cookies, finger printing, cell phones, GPS and traceable debit cards. Target, for example, gives each customer a Guest ID, which links the customer’s demographics information such as:

  1. Age
  2. If they are married or not
  3. How many kids you have
  4. How long it takes for you to drive to the store
  5. Which part of town you live in
  6. Your estimated salary
  7. Whether or not you have moved recently
  8. What bank you have an account in
  9. Browser history and cookies etc.

This is thanks to their “predictive analysis” department that is devoted to understanding not only their customer’s shopping habits but also their personal habits in order to “market them” more efficiently. All this information that is collected and analysed is thanks to Big Data.

Read more about the Target story here:


3 thoughts on “BIG DATA: Good or Evil?

  1. I think it is really concerning that so much data about us is collected and we cannot do anything about it. Especially with such a personal topic like pregnancy, it is scary that the supermarket knows about it before you get the chance to tell your parent personally. Maybe predictive analysis is even able to predict your pregnancy based on your consumption behavior before you know about it yourself.

    Predictive analysis is probably used in many more areas of our lives without our knowledge. I found an interesting article about how big data is able to predict divorce based on consumer behavior (such as increased chance to buy different beer brands).

    I experienced a form of predictive analysis myself. I am running a facebook page, where we frequently receive messages with people’s food preferences. A couple of month after launching the page, facebook asked me if I am running a business. It gave me the option to install automated replies with customized answers that are tailored for businesses for my customers. I assume facebook arrived to that conclusion by analyzing the messages that contained words like “order”, “register” and “deliver. I heard about predictive analysis before but I was surprised to encounter it on my facebook page.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A very interesting example that you picked! Even though it is certainly a very disconcerting feeling regarding the ability of Big Data to not only store but successfully evaluate your personal data (drawing conclusions about very intimate parts of your life) when reading this specific example. However it certainly offers a lot of potential as well. I was missing this part in your analysis – what can be the potential of such a capable apparatus for the company but even more interesting for the humans who’s data is collected? Overall you gave a good but very brief introduction into the matter and could have gone a bit more in depth- maybe through another slightly different example or a more stringent adherence to the SWOT – structure.


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