Thursday, October 05, 2006

Big Brother is Watching...Umbria is Listening

I was recently reviewing my blog stats and found a hit from an outfit called UmbriaListens dot com. So I paid them a return visit. It turns out through my blog postings I’ve been scanned, evaluated, isolated, activated, identicated, determinated, demographicated, estimated, influenciated, titillated, and twitterpated! Using sophisticated, proprietary algorhythmic software, this company “mines” an estimated 40 million blog and message boards a day. Through use of grammar and language attributes, and even those silly little emoticons ;-), they can determine the demographic characteristic of a blogger, be it male/female, age, education, income, sexual orientation, favorite color, etc., of everyone in the entire blogosphere. All this ‘public’ data is captured, cleansed, filtered for SPLOGS (you’ll have Google that one!), and analyzed into relevant consumer trend topics for manufacturers and service organizations in order to formulate a strategic marketing campaign.

For this very reason do I not shop for my groceries at Safeway, and other national chain stores that make you join The Club in order to get their “lowest price.” What? That’s discriminatory of them you say? That’s right, savvy consumers. If I walk in and want to buy a gallon of Dreyers Ice Cream, Vlasic Pickles and a box of Twinkies I’ll pay about 25% more if I’m not in “The Club”. So why don’t you just get the stoopid plastic card & save a few bucks, you ask? There’s never something for nothing. I firmly believe I shouldn’t have to sign up “for free” and provide my name, address, phone number, age, marital status, home owner status, number of children, weight, dog’s name, (you get the demographic attribute collection here, right?) to pay a ‘normal’ price for ice cream. For every time I were to swipe a card at the register to collect my savings the corporation is learning about me, evaluating what I purchase, strategizing ways to send me coupons (ergo, junk mail), for instance. I’m a firm believer in civil rights and the right to privacy. I don’t want Safeway, or anyone else for that matter, collecting, analyzing and evaluating my purchase habits so they can target me in their marketing.

Case in point: Early in 2005 our little Klingon arrived via the stork factory. By November of 2004 we were receiving mailings from Babies R Us in anticipation of our blessed arrival in a few short months. The Evil Mezzo & I scratched our collective heads wondering, “how did they know we were having a baby?” We searched behind bushes and dumpsters to assure ourselves there were no corporate spys lurking about watching us, analyzing us, and strategizing ways to take our baby budget money. No spys were found. But we did find a nice pair of night vision infrared goggles below our bedroom window.

What was even more disheartening was this: not only did they know my wife was with child, but they knew the due date and the fact that they seemed to know it was going to be a girl. Whoa! Big Brother is indeed watching. How did they know? My conspiracy theory is that they probably knew the moment my wife bought that little ClearBlueEasy pregnancy test stick at Safeway (yes, she possesses and uses that cursed club card!). The evil corporation (no relation) analyzed her purchase and concluded from subsequent and frequent purchases of Rocky Road ice cream, pickles, and Twinkies that my wife was going to have a baby. Somehow the combination of those items have already been predetermined that the child would be a girl. The evil corporation shouted, “Eureka! Another sucker for baby products!” then shared their discovery (for a nominal fee, I’m sure) to other evil corporate monoliths, such Babies R Us, who devised a clever marketing strategy for expecting families with our income bracket and proceeded to swamp us with coupons and deals for baby items 3 to 4 months in advance of the actual birth.

We got a heck of a deal on an infant car seat.

Big Brother is watching, and Umbria is listening.

Comments on "Big Brother is Watching...Umbria is Listening"


Anonymous Campbell Vertesi said ... (October 05, 2006 5:40 PM) : 

true - everything is transparent in the age of the digital. There are some interesting articles coming out lately about the fact that privacy doesn't exist on the internet, whether you like it or not.

Personally, I join the safeway club with false information. Or I use a friend's phone number . Throw 'em off a little. :)

PS - yes, let's exchange links!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (October 07, 2006 8:03 PM) : 

I feel similarly about discount cards. I too suffer from overflowing mailbaox syndrome due to thousands of huge tree killing cupon books from Babies R Us and such. And, I too bought a discount car seat.



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