The current data driven economy has encouraged the selling and buying of anonymized big data. Although the data is anonymous, there have been cases in which an individual was identified. This year, Japan Railways (JR) East was found to be selling data to Hitachi regarding the movement of train commuters so that Hitachi could improve its targeted advertising. While the data was also anonymous, JR was forced to cease its activities due to failing to obtain permission from commuters nor providing an opt out option. Currently, JR East states that they are continuing discussions on this issue, will stop offering data until it resolves privacy concerns.
This year, the U.S. based movie and television streaming service Netflix encountered similar troubles as individuals were identified as a result of collected data on Internet Movie Database (IMDB). A user who had posted similar reviews about a relatively unknown film on both Netflix and IMDB at similar times, was identified through Netflix’s algorithms.
In both cases, no party or individual was violated. In fact, both services aimed to provide more targeted services and advertising using the data. Yet, targeted advertising in Japan is recognized as “creepy.” In order for this to be eliminated, marketers must work to inform the purpose of advertising, allow users to decide whether to be targeted.