Paula Rosenblum writes a fun piece regarding the creepiness of retailers using their Big Data. In it, she contends that targeting our past purchases to send us relevant offers is smart business, but that the use of retargeting tools and practices is downright creepy. But how creepy is it really?  

We, as consumers, have enabled this sort of behavior, have we not? We get certain financial perks by handing over certain information, and in turn companies can use technologies like Hadoop to gather insights from it. Free-market capitalism at its finest! But seriously. Ads might be annoying, but if we didn't have them, we wouldn’t know about things that we want/need. Companies will always try and get the upper hand by employing the use of data mining/analysis and business intelligence software. It’s what helps them succeed.  

Ever since there has been mass media, there has been mass advertising. Someone was always willing to pay to get people to hear about their company. In the first 30 seconds of the first New York Mets radio broadcast, there are two ads. That’s right, before the newly minted Mets players were even announced, there was a beer commercial. Producers have always been trying to find new ways to get to consumers, and now is no different.

Do I like seeing banners in German for Air Berlin because my girlfriend looked up flights to Zurich? Not especially. But you know what I do like? I like the fact that companies like Dealply can use data to get me the best deal on a pair of Adidas shell tops, or that thanks to Fiverr, I can find someone to draw a caricature of my dog or hang flyers for me, for only five bucks.   

Retail didn’t invent Big Data, it is just utilizing something that was already there. If anything, we should be thankful that this technology is emerging. People are upset about PRISM, but the bottom line is, there is technology out there that can analyze text in real-time. That means that if someone sends a chat to a party elsewhere, that text can be parsed by a security apparatus and they will be notified if someone wants to use a weapon on innocent people. What about using this technology to improve healthcare research? We in Big Data can make peoples’ lives better. But I digress.  

I contend that this is a test of us marketers’ creativity. How can I get to my customers faster and better than my competition? How can I use this wealth of information to make my job easier and my bosses happier? And to that end, why would I not use data mining techniques on information that is readily available to me? Someone is going to use this information, so it might as well be me.  

We are capitalists. We capitalize on anything we can get our hands on that will give us an advantage. Or if we don't like commercials, we can move to communist countries where everything is owned by the government. I doubt they do any re-marketing in North Korea.