Saturday, April 17, 2010

Big Brother hopes you'll shop at his store

Even when I was very small I hated the Sunday-school song that begins
O be careful little eyes what you see
O be careful little eyes what you see
There's a Father up above
And he's looking down in love
So, be careful little eyes what you see
The song then advises the child to take equal care of his or her ears, hands, feet, and mouth. You never know when that all-seeing God, loving though he may be, is going to smite you.

I couldn't find out when the song was written - I learned it in the early 1950s - but its secular version comes from 1934:
He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
Unlike God, Santa Claus doesn't claim that his omniscient spying is love-based. He is, however, coming to town with a bagful of presents, so the child who understands enlightened self-interest had better watch out.

In today's New York Times, Stephanie Clifford offers yet another reason to watch out: "Web Coupons Know Lots About You, and They Tell."  She writes:
A new breed of coupon, printed from the Internet or sent to mobile phones, is packed with information about the customer who uses it. While the coupons look standard, their bar codes can be loaded with a startling amount of data, including identification about the customer, Internet address, Facebook page information and even the search terms the customer used to find the coupon in the first place.
God and Santa Claus, I've been told, can't be blocked. They know everything I think and do. Fortunately, retail marketers, like the devil, don't have that capability unless I hand it over to them. But it's so easy to let the marketers in. All I have to do is use an internet coupon for free shipping or 20% off.

At least God and Santa Claus use their information in order to offer me things I want, like eternal life and Christmas presents. And they give me these things free of charge, apart from their insistence on reasonably good behavior. Retail marketers, by contrast, offer only more marketing, finely tuned to my personal preferences so that I will covet their stuff and pout if I don't get it.

But wait - won't that jeopardize my standing with God and Santa Claus?

No comments: