Uncategorized

Retail Profiling

When I was growing up outside of Chicago, I often went into the Loop to look at the architecture, see a movie or the latest show at the Art Institute. One particularly cold winter I remember my winter coat had had a rather tough time of it, after falling in slushy snow on several occasions and truth be told, I looked rather rough, knit hat pulled down to my eyebrows and proudly showing that first bit of beard. The cold and wind made me take refuge in a new lifestyle brand clothing store that had just opened. I was just warming up when I noticed a clerk who seemed to have no other job than to follow me around the store.  Everywhere I went he made sure that he was in my gaze, making it clear that I was not welcome there. This made me so uncomfortable that I soon decided the arctic Chicago weather was better than the clerk’s cold gaze.
This came back to me while reading Joseph Turow’s “The Isles Have Eyes”, a fascinating new book on big data’s effect on retailing and the future of sales in general. It seems that retailers are now tracking our transactions both through our purchases and in the store via facial recognition to create a live buyer persona to project our needs and try to fulfill them before we reach the checkout isle. While a frequent buyers program can give discounts, Turow proposes that a store could tailor your experience to the store’s needs and perception of who you are and how your presence fits into their brand. For example, if you shop at that store only occasionally but spend a lot of money the store may want to woo you. Once the store recognizes you with facial recognition, they may alert a clerk to your presence, have them approach you with suggestions all based on your buying history. They may also have other information about you, say family names or photos from social media or a recent promotion from trade papers or press- all to ensure your return to their store. While this may be a bit creepy, the opposite is even worse. Let’s say a stores database decides you are not their demographic for whatever reason. A store clerk could be sent to shadow you around the store and if deemed necessary, even call security and remove you. All from the data that has been gathered about you, whether you know it or not. It seems that in the future we can be discriminated against not only for how we appear physically but electronically.

What can you do when your data decides who you are?

Standard
Uncategorized

Accountable to no one.

(Many thanks to Mr. Michael (Fletch) Reed for being a guest blogger this week)

Last week, Vizio was hit with a $2.2 million fine for collecting information about the viewing habits of people who used their televisions. Vizio not only collected the information but sold it to third parties. This aggregation and selling of data are not new. Google and Facebook make it a part of their license agreements that they will do this which is common in the industry to spell out what is being collected. However, in this case, Vizio was secretly collecting the data while the consumer was completely unaware that this was happening. This is patently wrong and a violation of the consumer’s privacy.

I have a friend who works in the development group at a software company. (Let’s call the company MFC). MFC collects information about people who use their software but allows the users to opt out if they chose to do so. Additionally, the information MFC collects is solely about the usage of MFC’s software to allow the company to decide which features to invest in and to determine what features are lagging in use.

What is the key difference between Vizio and MFC? The developers at MFC actually decided which information would help them make decisions about the usage of the software and the software only. There was little to no input from the marketing and sales departments. The developers exercised a level of restraint and ethics. But how common is this in the software industry if Vizio was collecting the information on the sly?

Other professional groups such as lawyers, doctors, and accountants have a code of ethics in place. Shouldn’t software developers be held accountable, be required to maintain a set of ethics to safeguard the consumer’s privacy?

http://www.cio.com/article/3156565/developer/should-software-developers-have-a-code-of-ethics.html

Standard
Uncategorized

I am not I. Am I?

In another life, I had the privilege of playing the “Phantom” in the Kopit and Yeston version of Phantom of the Opera. It was an amazing and difficult role made more difficult by the fact that I had to wear a mask for the entire show. I mention this because as an actor I had to find a way to communicate with my entire body the things that my face would have communicated. I realized that no one on stage could read my expressions or “see” what I was thinking. I think of this in terms of posting on social media and it makes me wonder am I my avatar? Am I a true expression of the person that I portray online or are we all electronic phantoms masking our true selves.

This thought came back to me while listening to a radio discussion on about larping or Live Action Role Playing and how it has become a way for people to express an alter ego possibly acting or saying something that they would not say face to face. It is well-known that avatars allow people to act in a way that they would not normally act making it seem as if we have created an electronic shadow world where our fantasies can be played out without harm or consequences. A place where we can say whatever outrageous things we like, act as outrageously as we like and none holds accountable.  The only issue is that these actions do have consequences, there are cyber bullies and cyber-shaming. One could argue that the President is also playing a role, whereas he once used the media with impunity to shame people, (Reporters, Mexicans, Women, anyone who disagrees, etc.) he now seems to be shocked that, when held in an accountable realm people react to the behavior with appropriate condemnation and disgust.  Once the avatar of celebrity has been superseded it seems the sad truth comes out. The man behind the curtain is the same as the beast before the curtain. The electronic Westworld we have created is still inhabited by the same consequences as the real world.

polish-mask-4f26f00-intro

Standard
Uncategorized

The Curse of Choice

One of the quotes that stuck in my head from my high school history class was from Henry Ford who, commenting on his Model T’s in 1909, “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” This came back to me when thinking of how the explosion in electronic media has allowed us so many choices in life compared even to when I was growing up. I remember when there were only 5 TV channels on the TV, more if you could get the antenna in just the right place. Now we have more options than we know what to do with on our TV and with the addition of our tablets and phones, the options have grown . While author Barry Schwartz in his 2004 book “The Paradox of Choice” argues that the increasing number of choices while seemingly giving us greater choice and actually increases our anxiety, we seem to have greater stress around making the “right “choice when we have more options. Recent developments would seem to argue the opposite. We seem to be able to insulate ourselves from opposing views and now even wrap ourselves in the warm illusion of alternate truths. Why bother with the harsh light of truth when we can stay crouched in the cave of shadows and half-truths.

What do we see when we have the ability to look at everything?

What do we see when we have the ability to look at everything?

Standard