Ray Hennessey writes:
In the OfficeMax public-relations fiasco, don’t blame Big Data. Blame small thinking.
OfficeMax is getting much-deserved criticism after Mike Seay, a suburban Chicago resident, received a solicitation letter from the company, addressed to him and to “Daughter Killed in Car Crash.”
Where the blame doesn’t rest is with so-called Big Data. There are some suggestions that the OfficeMax situation is just the latest sign of problems with the collection of personal data, conflating this incident with the unwarranted surveillance of American citizens by the government and the massive data breach of information from Target. There is also some concern that OfficeMax’s letter might be used as a weapon for privacy advocates who want to rein in data collection.
But it was not the existence of this data that was a problem, but rather its use. There is no way the death of Seay’s daughter can be relevant to a company that makes its scratch selling toner cartridges and dry-erase boards. Clearly, either OfficeMax pulled from an inappropriate data set to compile its mailing list, or its vendor pulled from the wrong list.
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