Who Do You Want To See?

21 Apr

Back in February I wrote about  Target’s ability to use customer transaction data to predict future behavior. The revelation that Target could predict which of their customers was about to have a baby set off a bit of an uproar as consumers worried that retailers are gaining too much insight into their personal lives. The debate highlighted the very fine line between retailer knowledge and retailer creepiness. Then this week, I heard about yet another use of data that moderately blew my mind. The concept behind Bar & Club Stats  is pretty straightforward: the company’s iPod scanners collect demographic data about patrons who enter bars by mining information from the patrons’ IDs. Bars can use that data to better understand who visits their establishments, when they arrive, etc. Doesn’t sound too different from companies using information from loyalty program and contest sign-up sheets for marketing purposes, right?

But then it gets more interesting. The company also plans to eventually release an app that helps bar-goers pick a bar based on who is already there. The app would collect some of the same info from patrons’ IDs (age, zip code, gender) as well as the patrons’ arrival times. Then, potential bar-goers could log into the app and search by any of those factors to see what sort of crowd had formed at different bars. So theoretically, a group of 20-something girls could easily pick out which bars had the best bets for finding a bunch of 20-something guys.

Maybe I need to start a category here called “cool or creepy?” because I think this would fit right in. It actually sounds pretty cool to me- as long as it is nameless data that just has your gender, age and zip code, why not? Yelp has added a feature to its search pages that lets you filter by the age group of a venue’s fans (e.g. looking for a restaurant that 30-somethings like), so they have to be using some similar data methods. If the app also collected my name and other personal information I’d be less excited about it. If it started collecting pictures to analyze attractiveness and let potential bar-goers know which bar had the prettiest patrons, I’d be weirded out. And if it started selling that information to marketers I’d just be annoyed, since I’m not a huge fan of direct mail. But fundamentally I see the company’s inspiration. The scanners are already being used in some NYC establishments, but the app hasn’t yet been released. I’d love to hear from my NY readers if they ever run into this!

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2 Responses to “Who Do You Want To See?”

  1. emily May 15, 2012 at 4:07 PM #

    Creepy. The first screenshot in their larger product description seems to indicate that the data isn’t anonymized at all. It gives a full name and address, DOB, and DL ID # (it looks like an expanded view of the a specific patron’s data shown in the third screenshot, which, in its list overview offers age, gender and ZIP.) From the video, it’s unclear whether or not this is stored in the “detailed history of every scan which can be emailed” but it’s not unreasonable to think that it could be. (EDIT: according to @netik, it is. He gives a little more info in a related conversation here http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2012/05/scenetap_facial_recognition.php)

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  2. Felicia May 16, 2012 at 7:30 AM #

    All that extra info would definitely creep me out- I would 100% not want my address, DL ID etc. available to the public. I guess I couldn’t argue with the bar keeping it, since they have the legal right to check my ID, but using it beyond normal means would start to get weird. I don’t mind the anonymous stats, but actual identifiers would make me very unhappy.

    Facial recognition, by the way, totally amazes me. But it’s really freaky to think there could be cameras all over the place and we just don’t know it…

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