This article shows how powerful big data and data science are and how misused they are. Read to the end where you hear from a consumer who has given up. It is actually a fascinating article with references to some wonderful research. But this is the dystopian reality of data, where the entire point of the exercise is not to create a better product but to figure out, based on consumer buying habits (a person's data), how to extract the maximum price for any given product from minute to minute. This is bad (as in unethical and immoral) use of data even if it is genius. These kinds of maladaptive uses are what has led to many unhelpful dynamics. We need to retake data science back for purposes that are beneficial and leading to better products, services across industries rather than being focused only on narrow self-interests. There is a huge potential for future data scientists to refocus us. Better science, better medicine, better city design... the possibilities are endless.
Thanks for sharing @Radicalrad !
On a personal note, I've become accustomed to clearing my cache and cookies, opening anonymous browsers, scheduling specific times/days of the week to book airfare... It's ridiculous -- especially considering that this has become just a part of my normal online shopping routine.
I'm curious what others think about the ethics surrounding online shopping/retailers use of data. Does anyone in the WoA group have experience in the online retail or e-commerce space?
Manager, Global Community Engagement
@Radicalrad wrote: ...the entire point of the exercise is not to create a better product but to figure out, based on consumer buying habits (a person's data), how to extract the maximum price for any given product from minute to minute. This is bad (as in unethical and immoral) use of data even if it is genius.
@Radicalrad, This does strike me as bad. If I buy something for a certain price at a certain place, it would seem unfair if someone got a better price at that same time and place. But I'm okay with charging more for shipping if I'm further away from the factory. I'm okay with paying more than someone else if I'm more well-off (progressive tax, school lunches). It seems hard to know where to draw the line ethically, and virtually impossible to police. How can morally upstanding companies compete with the dubious ones?
I liked the article; I especially enjoyed the historical tidbits, like the fact that setting a fixed price only dates back to the 1860's. And love the bit about GM:
“Pontiac … for the poor but proud, Oldsmobile for the comfortable but discreet, Buick for the striving, Cadillac for the rich.” The policy—“a car for every purse and purpose,” GM called it—was a means of customer sorting,
Thanks for the discussion, and the panel 🙂
A very thought provoking piece, @Radicalrad
The initial principles of economic perfect competition include that consumer have perfect information about products. The article describes situation in the recent past where the internet provided something like that. But the latest state of things is that DS seems to enable a near perfect information about each individual consumer to guess what price he/she is willing to pay, given a perception of value. What a twist... Thanks for bringing these ethical questions here.