Thursday, January 23, 2014

Big Brother Is A Marketer: Creepy Junk Mail Goes To A Dad, And His Deceased Daughter

One of the most disconcerting things about marketers, and using the Internet, and social media and everything else on line and in technology is the stuff these marketers know about you,
A mourning father, and the junk mail
addressed to him and his late daughter. Icky.  

They know everything about you. Stuff that you don't know they know about you. Stuff you might not know about yourself.

Recently, an extremely creepy window of what marketers know really freaked out and angered an Illinois dad.

Junk mail from OfficeMax was addressed to Mike Seay and his daughter who was killed in a car crash a year or so ago.

Now, people often get junk mail addressed to somebody who has passed away. They're on a mailing list or a database, and the people who run the database might not have any way of knowing the person has died.


But, according to the Los Angeles Times, this is way creepy.  Because the junk mail was addressed, and I'm directly quoting here, "Mike Seay, Daughter Killed in Car Crash."

Seay said he is only an occasional customer of OfficeMax and would never have told anyone there such personal details of his daughter dying, and how she passed away.

OfficeMax says it gets its mailing list from a third party provider. But that third party provider seems to know a lot about Seay and his personal life. Which means that provider, and so many other marketers, know all the details of our lives, too.

In this case, it looks to me like some computers figured out the circumstances of Seay's daugther's death, and some idiot just put in a note, never intending for it to get out. But it did.

Just how the marketer found out about the death, and how it happened, is unknown to us. They're not talking. But it feels invasive to say the least, no?

I know it's just for marketing purposes, and I don't mind strangers knowing things about me, but I'd like to be the one to choose what is known about me and what isn't.

I also know that ship has sailed, and people, marketers know much about me and a lot of other people.

Another problem is some of this "knowledge" about us is incorrect. The algorithms that computers use also allow the programs, and/or people to make incorrect assumptions about us. Or there's just wrong information about us that gets thrown into the data.

Garbage in, garbage out.

A small example: The other day I blogged about a crazy Ukranian guy who hangs off of buildngs by his fingertips for fun and jollies. Suddenly, I got spam alleging that Ukranian girls were interested in meeting me and I should go to their website to find them.

Since I looked up something referencing the Ukraine, the advertisers guessed I might be interested in picking up Hot Ukrainian Women. (For the record, dear marketers who are surely reading this, I have no interest in Ukranian women)

But it gets more serious than my sad lack of a relationship with Ukranian women.  According to the L.A. Times:

"Retail giant Target reportedly knows how to use its data to identify pregnant customers, and it recently lost tens of millions of customers credit and debit card information to hackers, among other data. Gatherings of consumer data are also reportedly sellling off lists of rape victims and AIDS and HIV patients, a privacy group told Congress in December."

I routinely look up all kinds of strange things, either as fodder for my blog and other writings, or just goofy curiosity. Will this come back to haunt me. Will banks say I'm too big a risk somehow because I'm looking up financial problems that aren't my own?

My elderly father has a serious heart problem and I looked up treatment options for him. I know I can't be left uninsured for pre-existing conditions, but will insurers somehow screw me over because they think I'm the one with the heart problem, and not my dad?

I'm contemplating a blog post on police brutality and have looked up some items on that subject. Will police get ahold of this data and perhaps take action.

That's a very paranoid thought, I realize, and I doubt any police agency will look at me askance for looking up instances of police brutality.

But if criminals can steal identities through big data breaches like the one Target experienced, can more sophisticated criminals put together a data-based dossier on me or anybody else and assume my identity, or yours?

Could they then commit further crimes in your name? And get you in trouble?

The ways that data can be mined is dizzying. Many cars come equipped with GPS. People can track where you've been in your car. 

So, if I was going down the wrong street, realized it, and turned around in drug treatment center parking lot so I can get back on the road to my intended destination, where the Internet brand me as a drug addict.

I'd hate to go through life being super careful about what I look up, where I go, what I see, because it'll go on my (incorrect) permanent record.

I'm still in the realm of being paranoid here. But will this paranoia become reality some day?

People have long worried about Big Brother watching you. They were thinking about the government. Which is a possibility. But a bigger threat seems to be that Big Brother is a marketer. Or worse, a criminal.

I think I want new relatives.

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