Cyber Tech

if ( gender == “female” && married == True && age >=30 ) { hasChildren = True; } – Terence Eden’s Blog

Marketing really is crap. Recently, SE Railways sent this piece of email drivel to my wife:

We don’t have any kids, thankfully – and are not having any in the future. My wife was literally recovering from a sterilisation procedure when the email arrived. So it seemed a bit weird that they’d send her a message like that.

My wife has never booked a child’s fare. She’s done nothing to indicate to them that she has spawned. They know that she’s married and female, because she set her title to “Mrs”. They got her date of birth from the ID checks they carried out – we think.

As far as we can tell, they’ve unilaterally decided that all married women of a certain age must have kids. Or, perhaps, they just lazily sent the message to all women?

So, she spoke to them, to ask why this specific piece of guff had been sent to her. All they’d say was the rather nebulous statement that the emails was a “targeted email sent to a number of passengers […] When passengers use our services we’re able to use this data to help us target communications effectively.”

Not really answering the question. But they decided to bung us £20 of M&S vouchers for the “upset”.

Even the most modest of interactions with a company will be data-mined for trivial details in the vague hope of getting you to spend more money.

Here are a few tips if you want to avoid getting microtargetted like this:

  • Consider using a gender neutral title like Mx – or earn yourself a doctorate.
  • Use an initial rather than a first name. Names can be used to determine likely age.
  • Don’t answer any demographic questions which aren’t necessary to the provision of the service, or have a legal/regulatory basis.
  • You generally can’t unsubscribe from service emails, but you can close your account once you’ve finished your transaction. Digital hygiene is essential!

Of course, if you complain about a mistargeted email, that’s another data-point they have about you!

Source :

I am tech enthusiast and a keen learner, Currently pursuing Bachelors in Computer Science from University of Delhi

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