messing with purchase prediction software

A few years ago Tesco caused a stir with their loyalty card and the use of purchase histories to offer targeted coupons to users of the cards, which caused some privacy worries (IIRC about the same time Scott McNealy said “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”) and that made me start wondering about the software used to predict buying habits, and what it made of my purchases. Am I statistically average ? Do I shop like a single person, or is there a category of ‘other-half forgotten bits’ if you sift enough data ? xkcd had a slightly more lo-tech version (don’t forget to hover over the image), and last night I started to wonder if the recent ‘healthy eating initiatives’ announced to guarantee column inches save our children from obesity might not get linked into these systems soon. My shopping took place at 20:34, and consisted of:

Chocolate Cake
Vanilla Vodka
Paracetamol

Which by my estimation would have either had the Samaritans calling me to make sure things were ok, or my Dr alerted to my unhealthy behaviour and sending me stern letters/phone messages telling me I was going to have clogged arteries and he wouldn’t be doing anything except saying ‘I told you so’ if I dared to turn up with high blood pressure, and warning me of the dangers of binge drinking.

In my defence all I can say is that the three items were unrelated, but I’m sure some profiling software knows better.

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