Creeping Towards Creepy: Companies Must Learn Constraint with Big Data, Before it’s Too Late

By Robert D. Owen and Christopher W. Surdak

Companies have invested billions just to utilise technology to analyse customer needs and wants with maximum accuracy. Technology has been developed in such a manner that it can be already seen as creepy. In this article, Robert Owen and Christopher Surdak go into why companies should limit their use of technology in business.


By now in America it has become trite to note the exponential growth of Internet-linked devices and their ability to improve our daily lives. Not only are we all familiar with them, most of us are utterly addicted to them.

Ironically, one of today’s biggest challenges is simply managing the power that is available literally in the palm of our hands. In this quest for ease through the utilisation of technology, our anonymity and privacy were sacrificed long ago.

Early adopters among us have incrementally made privacy sacrifices in order to access the conveniences found on so many of those shiny tech things we now consider necessities. While done willingly at first, as we come to truly understand the full depth and breadth of just what it is we are surrendering, this apathetic acceptance of privacy intrusions is not likely to last.

Anyone familiar with smartphones and apps has likely experienced the moment when customer intimacy suddenly becomes too intimate, too present and too invasive. It is no exaggeration that given contemporary algorithms and the trove of available customer data, companies have begun to move from mere marketing to a deeper level of manipulation than ever before possible. Anyone surprised by the revelation that Facebook and others have been emotionally manipulating their customers clearly doesn’t understand the fundamental business model behind such “free” platforms and services.

At a completely subconscious level, our behaviors and buying impulses can be influenced and exploited. As such, our free will may no longer be so free. At these times many of us feel unsettled, as though we’re being watched and analysed a little too closely, known a little too well, and it all becomes just a little bit creepy.

Over the past decade, social media, Big Data and mobile technologies have been integrated into our lives at a blistering pace. All told, thousands of companies have invested billions of dollars in these technologies. The purpose of these investments is obviously to make money and in order to do that, customer analytics have become increasingly sophisticated, accurate, persuasive and, ultimately, creepy.

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