Why targeted advertising may not be so bad


An irate father barges into a Target retail store location in Minneapolis and complains that his teenage daughter has been receiving coupons for diapers and other common baby products. He fears that the large corporation has been attempting to encourage the teenager to become pregnant. So what’s the twist? Target accurately deduced that the girl was pregnant before her dad could.

The fallout from this event has been concern over privacy and safety violations by companies like Target. By compiling a historical list of purchases from customers, Target is capable of analyzing buying patterns and profiling an individual’s lifestyle. But does this really constitute an invasion of privacy? Is this kind of marketing strategy dangerous?

The system itself is not dangerous, since it’s simply a marketing tool. Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and hundreds of other websites use your personal information to customize visual, auditory and textual advertisements. For example, by listing that you like soccer on your Facebook wall, there is a high probability that advertisements for soccer camp, shoes and gear will appear in the margins of your browser.

Right now, the technology behind this system is rather clunky and can be annoying, often soliciting things that people may no longer have an interest in. But imagine encountering advertisements that make you aware of internship opportunities that you didn’t know about. What about not having to sit through another dumb Progressive commercial even though you don’t own a car or house or receiving information that actually means something rather than a 30 second intermission from the new "Game of Thrones" episode?

As of now, patient medical information is protected heavily under federal law, yet highly revealing statistical information from consumers is not. As these marketing developments become increasingly personal, there needs to be an equivalent barrier of protection by the law for consumers.