“Chapter Five Case: Data Analysis Gone Wrong
Can you imagine receiving an ad from Target informing you that your teenage daughter was pregnant? Yes, this actually happened a few years ago when Target sent an unsuspecting father discount coupons for cribs and baby clothes for his teenage daughter who had not told anyone she was pregnant. This incident set off a flurry of outrage and privacy concerns over Target’s data analysis practices.
I bet you are wondering how big data helped analyze customers’ purchases to determine pregnancy. Target analyzed its data using a unique ID linked to a customer’s credit card, name, and purchases to look for patterns (e.g., a woman buying prenatal vitamins) to then send them special deals and coupons for baby items. When Target’s data analysis system analyzed customer purchase data based on 25 products that pregnant women frequently buy, it could assign a pregnancy prediction score to each shopper and estimate her due date so Target could send her relevant coupons for various stages of her pregnancy. After massive customer outrage over privacy concerns, Target began mixing customized coupons by offering a coffee maker with a crib or coupons for baby clothes with wine glasses, so someone reviewing the coupons could not determine anything about the customer.
Reference-Baltzan, paige.2021. Business Drien Technology. McGraw Hill Education.9th Edition