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Thursday, 28 April 2005
Little sister is watching


The above is a fire I spotted in a field near Ravenstone. I am sure it was nothing to be alarmed about.

I recently read a Wired article, Amazon knows who you are, found via Welsh View.  The article explains how Amazon tracks and stores as much information about its customers as possible.

For years, Amazon has collected detailed information about what its customers buy, considered buying, browsed for but never bought, recommended to others or even wished someone would buy them. It has built ever-more sophisticated tools to recommend more purchases, direct your searches toward products it thinks you’re most likely to want, or even stop the forgetful among us from buying the same book we purchased five years ago.

For example, a customer who buys the movie Lost In Translation might also be prodded to buy 21 Grams or Kill Bill, Vol. 1 because others have made similar purchases. And customers who searched several times for a Laurie R. King mystery novel might find a book by her the next time they visit Amazon’s home page.

More recently, the Seattle virtual retailer has launched a web search engine, called A9, that can remember everything you’ve ever searched for—and the site reserves the right to share that information with its retailing arm.

The article reminded me of my university lecturer who said that while a single Big Brother computer system to track us and record all our private information was not on the cards, we already have a Little Sister scenario with many small systems storing different private information about us. What the article highlights is a trend towards consolidation: little sister is growing up.

The article also reminded me of my own experiences with Amazon’s recommendations.  In the last two or three years I bought two hardcover editions of (separate) Harry Potter novels.  I subsequently had a problem where, every time a new HP novel was released, Amazon gave this to me as a recommendation. They did this even with a new edition of one of the books I had already bought. Now why would someone who has HP4 in hardcover (children’s version) want to buy the hardcover adult version, and the softcover child and softcover adult versions of the same book? The words in the books are identical.  The way to stop this madness was to inform Amazon (there is a link in their reccommendations page) that: I already own this book.  I had to do this for all the HP novels, DVD’s, etc.  All versions. 

I’ll brace myself for another round of this craziness when the next HP book is released. I hope that little sister’s IQ will have improved by then, but I won’t count on it.

Edit: With thanks to my colleague Lynn for her careful proof-reading of my blog, I have corrected the perennial error of typing seperate instead of separate (28.04.2005).

Posted by bigblue on 28/04/2005 at 12:34 AM
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