Purpose - There are two claims made by the web marketing/advertising industry. 1) By collecting, managing, and mining data, companies serve consumer’s best interests and 2) by adopting sophisticated analytics web marketers avoid discriminations that disserve individuals. Although we share an interest in ending social discrimination, we are more circumspect about pronounced individualism and technological fixes. Despite its appeal, or perhaps because of it, we should not accept the claim at face value. In this paper we argue that social discrimination may not disappear under smarter marketing; more overt forms may wane only to be replaced by more subtle forms.
Design/methodology/approach - We compare the two most important techniques of "smarter" marketing- predictive analytics and Facebook's social graph- with current discriminatory practices of weblining and e-scoring. While noting advances against overt discrimination we describe how smarter marketing allows for covert forms.
Findings - Innovative strategies to record and mine users’ tastes and social connectivity for marketing purposes open the way for covert social discrimination.
Originality/value - We provide a critical assessment of two claims made by the web marketing/advertising industry: 1) By monitoring consumer web activity and collecting, managing, and mining data, companies serve consumer’s best interests and 2) by adopting sophisticated analytics web marketers avoid discriminations that disserve individuals.
Grodzinsky, F., Gumbus, A., & Lilley, S. J. (2013). Will "smarter" marketing end social discrimination? A critical review. Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 11(3), 132-143. doi: 10.1108/JICES-07-2013-0022
Version posted is the authors' preprint.