The central theme to "1984," Orwell's renowned novel set in a dystopian future, is the fact that Big Brother is watching the protagonist's every move, eliminating his ability to act anonymously. Modern films like "Enemy of the State" and the Jason Bourne series reveal ways in which government intelligence agencies can monitor us, often in astounding detail. But what about businesses?
The Grocery Store Is Watching You
Last week (Aug. 9), Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times wrote about how grocery stores want to take their loyalty programs beyond simple discounts for all members -- and move toward personalized discounts based on individual purchase history.
Clifford describes how Safeway's new personalization program gives different discounts to different people. For example, the price for Refreshe bottled water is $2.71 for a person with a history of buying the product, whereas for someone who normally opts for Smartwater, the price is $3.69.
Kinda creepy, hey? No matter, say the grocers. "Even though the use of personal shopping data might raise privacy concerns among some consumers, retailers are counting on most people accepting the trade-off if it means they get a better price for a product they want," Clifford writes.
Advertisers Are Watching You Too (Especially Your Face)
On Aug. 8, Tarun Wadhwa, a guest columnist for Forbes, wrote about advertisers' use of facial detection technology to measure ad effectiveness and to tailor content specifically for the viewer.
"Immersive Labs has developed software for digital billboards that can measure the age range, gender, and attention-level of a passerby and quantify the effectiveness of an outdoor marketing campaign," he writes. "Beyond just bringing metrics to outdoor advertisements, facial detection technology can tailor ads to people based on their features."
Some examples include:
- Plan UK's "Because I Am A Girl," bus stop e-poster campaign that showed a video clip to female passersby, and just a static ad to males.
- Kraft recommended macaroni recipes to women it could identify as "busy mothers."
- Adidas recommended walking shoes to older shoppers.
- Jell-O scanned faces for an "adults only" pudding line; its machines wouldn't give children any samples.