Businessweek Archives

Digital snoops vs. Joe Sales Clerk


Here’s an holiday shopping essay I wrote on how the Numerati, for all their data-tracking smarts, still lag far beyond the sales clerk when it comes to insightful surveillance. Our brains are still tops.

But our brains are also packed with prejudice and preconceptions, and we tend to place people into our traditional groupings, black and white, rich-looking, poor-looking, etc. The data-hounds, by contrast, study us by our behavior: where we go, what we do, who we communicate with. This means that the age of electronic monitoring, for all its intrusions, may also be fairer. (There: a dose of cold holiday comfort.)


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