You may consume data but do not cross the "creepy line"


One of the joys of the connected internet is access to data all over the planet (and beyond). Wikipedia is the lens and connected link directory to practically anything we want to look at. Data collected by companies is warehoused and stored on the off chance it might one day be useful, even that little bit of insight could net the company a few extra Pounds, Euro or Dollars.

I’m beginning to see the cracks, small ones they may be but they lead to bigger problems in the future as we accept that the amount of data we are creating but still with no clear idea of the intention. 

Privacy is always a big concern. Mobile data and what the phone stores means now, more than ever, we’re carrying our own digital footprints with us. As location, purchases and messages are easily monitored then predictive insight can be got with a bit of processing and thought.  The large swinging pendulum is one of culture. Age plays a factor, younger ones are easy with the thought of sharing their thought, location, actions and emotions online. As you climb the age ladder that willingness decreases.  

It’s not just age that defines what’s acceptable and what’s not. Geographic location and the country’s culture has an awful lot to do with what you’re willing to accept or not accept as the norm.  This is something that the likes of large multinational companies have to deal with regularly. Just because you can predict what a customer is going to purchases doesn’t mean you should tell them.

The creepy line is that variable place in the world where the decision has to be made whether you make that call or just leave it as good intelligence. Once the creepy line is crossed then you start to lose the trust of the customer, once that happens then the potential of that customer moving to a competitor increases.


The Target Baby Club is one of the perfect examples of the creepy line being crossed. A number of basket item triggers (25 core products) make the indication that a customer is pregnant.  Things like suddenly buying unscented products for example. 

So how did they cross the creepy line? Signing up expectant mothers to their baby club coupons without permission. Simple but costly in terms of customer complaints. When you cross the line and cause a customer surprise not everyone will see your way.  Even when the coupon mailings hit the nail on the head with every coupon it is crossing the creepy line. Target accepted this and now put random coupons within the calculated ones so not to arouse too much suspicion.

So where from here? Well just because we can doesn’t mean we should. Before diving into the pool of prediction and customer suggestion seriously think about the reaction of the consumer. Who’s going to freak when they get that offer or coupon? 

Privacy and curating the creepy line comes first.

One response to “You may consume data but do not cross the "creepy line"”

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