Off Target: Retailers’ Big Data Management Fails

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a modern consumer in possession of a retail membership card, must be tracked in collection of purchase data. Privacy and prejudice aside, however, people seems more than willing to offer up their personal information in exchange for some monetary rewards or membership benefits.

But what if your retailer figures out something personal through data tracking and starts doing something with that information without your consent? Starting with the Target pregnancy score scandal, in which a father found out about his teen daughter’s pregnancy through a baby product-heavy mailer, retailers as diverse as J.C. Penny and BestBuy and small tech start-ups like SceneTap have all been caught in the cross-fire of consumers’ indignation over privacy violation. Most recently, Target once again found itself in a comprising position with the media exposure on a widespread credit card breach affecting over 110 million Target shoppers. The incident alarmed a lot of previously unsuspecting customers and highlighted another landmine field of big data mismanagement—security concerns.

All these controversies have sparked several rounds of national debates on privacy and consumer rights. Still, the debates prove to be futile, as businesses continue to collect data from their customers without much protest. The conclusion here is that most people don’t really mind being tracked if they receive some value from it, and if their data remains secure. Retailers must behave responsibly with data and learn to manage it better if they want to remain in the good graces of consumers.