Data Science

Uberrific!

Capture dog

So I love Uber…I know that may sound contradictory considering I harp on about data privacy and the past troubles Uber has run into but stay with me.  Let’s start by reiterating the fact that they completely reshaped the traditional ‘for hire’ cab services, and now they are also taking their infamous innovation in the verticals most closely linked to delivering said service, all good so far? Well not quite; security, has since the inception of Uber, looked to be their Achilles heel.   These apparent weaknesses range from physical security e.g. driver inexperience, insurance challenges and most importantly the safety of its passengers’ person; to the security of the passengers information.

I find myself in a familiar dilemma, like many other consumers out there; I love companies like Uber that tailor to my personal needs making things super easy for my super busy lifestyle, but I am also super sensitive about how my information is treated, so how do I bridge this?

It definitely took me time to become the Uberlover that I am today, but the fact that I could now reach “public” transportation with a couple of swipes on my mobile phone was a big hooray.  Second, the fact I no longer had to fumble for payment, make change or wait for enough connection bars on a relatively archaic debit/credit devices was also a ‘oh wow’ moment.  Oh the dreaded times when coming back from a long flight home, followed by the long cab ride, only to stay in the backseat of the cab an extra 10 minutes in front of my house, while Johnny Everycab struggled to locate and operate his payment machine.

Okay, back to why to the real reason for bothering to put keyboard strokes to screen today.  Uber has introduced new technology to better protect the personal information and increase overall consumer safety with, “one of a kind” technology as described by Mir Juned Hussain’s article published in IT Web&Tech news. To summarize, the interaction between driver and rider, will now allow for telephone numbers to be masked by a technology scheme called “Disguised Phone Numbers”.  The article explains “The new tech innovation will ensure that any calls between riders and driver-partners are connected using anonymous phone numbers which will result into the fact that both the parties can interact with each other, coordinate a pick-up etc., without revealing any personal information”

The article also mentions that is just one of several initiatives to be put in place by Uber in recent months.  Others include passenger re-verification, SOS Alert systems linked to local law enforcement and Send Status that allows sharing of geo-location and trip info.  In effect, Uber has not only risen to the challenge of ensuring the safety of its passengers, it has far exceeded what is currently available within the traditional carrier’s repertoire.

The Wonderful Wizards of Advertising

Diet products and supplement advertising is really a sordid and manipulative industry.  I have fallen for it with the Wild Rose diet and I bought the Atkins book (he was a doctor wasn’t he?).  Yes they worked but because there wasn’t much that I wanted to eat from the permissible food list; hence I ate less.  But are they sustainable?  Hell no, I like my chocolate, cheese, bread, pasta…..

What does this have to do with us controlling our personal information?  The more companies know about you the more they can target you specifically through your current emotion or activity.  For example on Facebook you can put in your status how you are feeling (this is coded for easy analysis by the way), reading, eating, watching etc.  If you were to put in ‘feeling sad’ and ‘eating cake’ you are probably going to be targeted for the Garcinia Cambogia pill or chair gym – yep you can look fabulous without leaving your chair!  What we buy is an emotional thing, we are not really the rational beings we think we are when buying stuff, if it isn’t emotional that it is probably habit.

I was being completely irrational and very emotional when buying the Wild Rose and Atkins books.  I have never believed in diets, I don’t like diets and I always scoff at others who do them so what made me do this?  I am so bombarded by images in advertising that makes me feel bad but gives me hope, there is a wide range of feelings that weight loss advertising evokes in me.

1 – Fear, although not overweight I am a bit of an apple shape which apparently puts me at higher risk of heart disease!  I don’t want to get heart disease

2 –Insecurity.  Images of young, beautiful and happy girls with the perfect body!  Yep I want that!  I want to wear a bikini and run down the beach with confidence without feeling my belly rise and fall at the opposite time to the rest of my body

3 – Living the dream.  These ads make me feel like I can’t be truly happy until I get down to that perfect weight (for me that is 115lbs – ridiculous).  Anyone who doesn’t think they would be happier if they were thinner are in the minority.  For me it’s like buying the lottery ticket and imagining what I will do with the winnings.  With being thinner I imagine all the wonderful clothes I would wear and all the places I would wear them.  Super happy and super confident.

4 – Dazzled by science.  There is always a new study or a new specialist out there who wants to tell us a new quick fix to getting the perfect bod!  It must be true its science; these pills really will speed up my metabolism or absorb the fat so that it isn’t absorb into our bodies and I get to eat what I want.

5 – Trust– Well Doctor Oz said its true so it must be right?  Celebrities and celebrity doctors are in our homes through the TV, we think we know them and we think we can trust them.  We have either seen them work off their own weight and have found that miracle or they are doctors who we have already put on the pedal stool of honesty.  This was never more perfectly ripped to pieces than by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight.  I hope you watched the video not only because it is so hilarious but also because ‘Morning Joe’ so beautifully epitomizes how irrational we are.

 

 

 

She’s having a baby! Your local retailer probably knows before your friends do

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

To all of you who think that you are not impacted or influenced or manipulated even, by corporates, ask the father of a Minneapolis girl who kept receiving pregnancy promotions from Target. It got to the point where he went into the store to complain to the manager explaining how unethical it was to promote pregnancy and baby products to a teenager. The manager apologized profusely and could clearly see that they had in fact been sending these promotions to the girl. What transpired next has become famous within the research world, when the store manager followed up with a courtesy call a couple of weeks later the father confessed that his daughter was actually pregnant. The store was absolutely spot on in their prediction and were hustling to be the go-to store for the soon-to-be family.

This is an oldie but goodie example that has done the rounds several times in the market research world, but for someone outside of the industry it is probably surprising.

Retailers are competing for your loyalty and in the arms race are recruiting data scientists to analyze your behavior and habits to predict and influence your future spend. Influence is the real challenge for retailers because our spending habits are ingrained into our psyche. It is likely that you’re subconsciously drawn to buy the same laundry detergent that your mother used when you were little for example. But there are periods where we are more likely to change our shopping habits and during pregnancy is one of them. Like most new parents, time and alertness is going to be tight as they adapt to wonders of child rearing. Decision making will hinge on convenience and preserving their most valued asset, time. Separate trips to the grocers, shopping malls, electronic stores, will most likely be bundled into one big box Department store, such as Target or Walmart. With birth records being public, aside from all the online scraping and text analytic algorithms new parents are targeted prey, usually bombarded just after the birth of their child,

How do they know when someone is pregnant? Let’s set the background

As a customer of a store you are given an ID linked to your credit card. This ID is used to uniquely identify you, your history and all future purchasing and habits.  Under this ID, linkages can be made to your personal information such as age, marital status and estimated salary

This is just the tip of the iceberg, as they can have access to direct or inferred information on the Credit cards you carry in your wallet and what Web sites you visit. “Target can buy data about your ethnicity, job history, the magazines you read, if you’ve ever declared bankruptcy or got divorced, the year you bought (or lost) your house, where you went to college, what kinds of topics you talk about online, whether you prefer certain brands of coffee, paper towels, cereal or applesauce, your political leanings, reading habits, charitable giving and the number of cars you own. (In a statement, Target declined to identify what demographic information it collects or purchases.)” Charles Duhigg ‘How Companies Learn your Secrets’ 2012

This information is then analyzed by data scientists (the new sexy in market research) whose job is to translate your behavior into predictive models that inform the marketing depts.

Target is advanced in this particularly around expectant mums and figured out that there were 25 purchases when combined that could predict not only pregnancy but what trimester the mother was in and expected due date. These purchases were things like vitamins and supplements, hand sanitizer, unscented soaps and lotions etc… on their own these data points aren’t enough of an indicator but together they were extraordinarily powerful and telling.

We leave breadcrumbs of information everywhere for others to track us and predict where we are going, whether we want them to or not. This is a byproduct of the remarkable digital age among us. ‘We are not alone’ is less about extra-terrestrials and more about big brands following your every move and in zombie like fashion and in their own way, EAT YOUR BRAIN!!!  Ok, Ok exaggeration, but don’t become a passive zombie yourself, be aware, educate yourself and learn how you can take more control of what you put out there.

This article has referenced and extremely good article published in Forbes Magazine and written by Charles Duhigg.  I urge you to read this if you want to learn more