I am Known


I’m intrigued that companies — like Amazon, who recommends what books I might like, or Netflix, who recommends what movies I should see, or my beloved Target who prints out coupons for things I buy — know me so well. Their fancy computer algorithms  predict, based on things I’ve bought, watched or rated, other things that I might like, and they do so quite accurately.

A few years ago, Netflix described my taste in movies, as

Action & adventure based on real life
Feel-good teen dramas
Dark military movies
Sentimental wedding movies

and those descriptions were pretty spot on. Today, Netflix describes my tastes as

Emotional dramas based on a book
Psychological thrillers
Comedies
Suspenseful action & adventure based on real life
Family feature animation.

Once again, that’s a pretty accurate depiction of things I like.

People sometimes act shocked when they hear that companies use data about spending habits to learn about their customers and market more specific products to them. I’m not surprised at all. It’s nothing new really. They’ve been doing it for a while, and if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Why should the Target coupon printer give everyone a coupon for the same product when they can look at the kinds of things you buy and customize deals that you might actually use, ya know? It helps them and it helps you, a win-win.

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