Amazon.com Knows, Predicts Shopping Habits

One From The AP on Amazon.com Inc., who they say has one potentially big advantage over its rival online retailers: It knows things about you that you may not know yourself. Though plenty of companies have detailed systems for tracking customer habits, critics and boosters alike say Amazon is the trailblazer, having collected information longer and used it more proactively. It even received a patent recently on technology aimed at tracking information about the people for whom its customers buy gifts.

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a good thing

When I explain to people about cookies and such I use Amazon as an example of the positive side of information gathering.

For those who hate the idea of Walmarts and miss the personal service of smaller stores isn't this the same thing? Doesn't your local grocery store clerk or pharmacist know a lot about your personal life through what your buying?

Another use

Netflix also does something similar, and for a cinema fiend like me, it's far more seductive. They gather data on various things about various movies and the various people who rent them. So, when I add a movie to my queue, the confirmation screen lists movies that other people liked who requested that movie.

Result? Well, I'm a huge fan of Japanese horror flicks. The American Ring was good, but it has absolutely nothing on Ringu, the Japanese original. The Grudge is probably spot on since the director of The Grudge is the same director of Ju On, the Japanese movie The Grudge is based upon. So I select my Japanese horror flick, and up pops more Japanese horror flicks. And I think, oh that one looks good too. So I add it. And up pops more Japanese horror flicks. And the cycle continues.

I think I added at least a third of my queue that way.

It's kinda like a drug dealer. "Ohh you likes that, do you? Well try this, man, it'll blow your mind! And if you like that, then you gonna love this!

Re:a good thing

My local grocery clerk has never sold that information about me to every catalog mailer under the sun, or in fact to any junk mailer or third party at all. My local grocery store clerk doesn't provide a complete report about me to the government for security purposes. My local pharmacist now does do that, but that's just because all the small independents have either been driven out of business by the CVSs and Walgreens, or have tied in to the same Dr./pharmacy/insurance/government databases that the big boxes have.


This is the form-letter-with-my-name-in-a-handwriting-font version of personal service.

Re:a good thing

Apparently you've never lived in a small town. Your local grocer doesn't bother selling your personal information, they give it away for free in the form of gossip.

Re:a good thing

Not since HIPPA they don't. Or, if they want to keep their store, or their job, they had better not.

I think all businesses should have an opt out clause. If you don't want your information shared, they should be willing to honor that request and keep only the purchasing information for as long as it takes to make sure the buyer is satisfied. At the end of that period, the information should be expunged. If they are going to sell that information, or use it to market items to you, they should pay you, the customer, for the priviledge.

Re:a good thing

Sorry.. that should have been HIPAA

Re:a good thing

You're jumping to an extreme. If you go into a public store and buy an item off the shelf that's a public act for anyone to see. Neither you nor the government can control that in any way shape or form.

Re:a good thing

My mistake... for some reason I read your local "grocer" as your local "pharmacist." Obviously HIPAA does not pertain to grocers.

But Amazon is not your local grocer, it is more like your huge impersonal Box Store. Where they don't know you. A good example was the way Radio Shack used to do business. They used to ask for your name, and phone number, etc... I gave them fake info every time. It was none of their damn business, and I could care less about them sending me crap. If I wanted it, I would have given them "good" info. I think it should be the same for online businesses. If they want to use that info, they should have to ask permission first instead of getting information by stealth. I also clean out my cookies at least once a week. ;) Both virtual and real.

Re:a good thing

HIPPA stands for the Health Insurance Portability Act and the privacy provisions that it contains only apply to medical records. They would not apply to some store in your town.

Re:a good thing

Yeah, I just explained that in a post above. For some reason I thought Greg had written "local pharmacist" instead of "local grocer". Obviously HIPAA does not apply to grocers.

Patient information is more public than you think.

From Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau's film, Side Effects:


"Where is Dr Schmidt in terms of Festril prescriptions?"

"He's at 2%."

"Why isn't he on board yet?"

"He likes to wait at least one year before prescribing any new drugs. It's a safety issue and he likes to reserve quinolones for compromised patients."

"What kind of idiot would reserve the most effective drug on the market? What's his reason?"

"Well, because last year, you know, when we didn't have our own quinolones to sell, we were calling him an idiot for using such a big gun when it wasn't absolutely necessary."

"Oh, it looks like you did your job a little too well last year. Have you invited him out to corporate yet?"

"No, but..."

"OK. I want him flown out to corporate. Also make sure he is signed up for the upcoming webcast with Dr Sing. I want you in his office twice a week for the next three. Got it?"



Slattery-Moschkau told the BMJ that when sales reps went into doctors' offices, they were "armed and dangerous" with prescribing information on each doctor. "They know what percentage of Prozac or Paxil a doctor prescribes," she said. "The doctor often doesn't know this and it gives [reps] an incredible advantage over the doctor."

When doctors do find out that every single drug they prescribe has been tracked and sold "for millions of dollars" to drug companies, they can "go ballistic," said one drug company insider who asked to remain anonymous. Telling a doctor about the existence of these prescription tracking lists, he said, was "not a good career move."

"This story is actually my story," said Slattery-Moschkau, adding that the tactics employed by the industry in its "dangerous pursuit" of profits sometimes came "at the expense of patients' lives."

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