You think the Government and Google know a lot about you? UPS does too.

My shiny new iPhone has shipped, so wanting to know more about when it should be delivered, I signed up for the UPS My Choice service. To verify me, UPS couldn’t text my cell phone for some reason (perhaps the prefix doesn’t match my current address, since I’ve moved without changing the number). So the UPS website offered me a quiz instead. This was a multiple choice quiz with one right answer per group. UPS asked about a street I lived on when I first moved to California more than 25 years ago. They asked about the location of a temporary delivery address we had for a short while during a move 14 years ago. They also asked where a particular prior address from 10 years ago was. This means that UPS has put together a profile of me that tracks back 25 years, yet I never sent them change of address notices or any other way of connecting the addresses. That’s impressive! I’ll refrain from using the word “scary,” which was my first reaction, because they are providing me a service, so keeping track of me doesn’t bother me too much. And, of course, we’re always happy to see the UPS driver because it means something we ordered is arriving!

It is a bit of a cautionary tale, however. If UPS has this kind of profile gleaned from years of delivering packages to me, what must other companies have? UPS may know I’m getting a box from Amazon or Best Buy, but the retailers know what is in the box, so they can develop an even better profile of me. Which leads to the question: Then why are the recommendations on most websites, including Amazon, so crappy? We’ve all heard amazing data mining stories where a retailer knew women were pregnant before their families did, etc., but so far, only Netflix seems to be very good at guessing what I want.

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