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Will “smarter” marketing end social discrimination? A critical review

Frances Grodzinsky (Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA)
Andra Gumbus (Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA)
Stephen Lilley (Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 12 August 2013

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Abstract

Purpose

There are two claims made by the web marketing/advertising industry. By collecting, managing, and mining data, companies serve consumer's best interests, and by adopting sophisticated analytics, web marketers avoid discriminations that disserve individuals. Although the paper shares an interest in ending social discrimination, the paper is more circumspect about pronounced individualism and technological fixes. Despite its appeal, or perhaps because of it, the paper should not accept the claim at face value. The paper argues that social discrimination may not disappear under smarter marketing; more overt forms may wane only to be replaced by more subtle forms. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper compares 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, the paper describes 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

The paper provides a critical assessment of two claims made by the web marketing/advertising industry: by monitoring consumer web activity and collecting, managing, and mining data, companies serve consumer's best interests, and by adopting sophisticated analytics, web marketers avoid discriminations that disserve individuals.

Keywords

Citation

Grodzinsky, F., Gumbus, A. and Lilley, S. (2013), "Will “smarter” marketing end social discrimination? A critical review", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 132-143. https://doi.org/10.1108/JICES-07-2013-0022

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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