Surveillance Scores Affect Prices You Pay Online

Surveillance Scores Affect Prices You Pay Online, by Harper Neidig.

Consumer advocates are pushing regulators to investigate what they paint as a shadowy online practice where retailers use consumer information collected by data brokers to decide how much to charge individual customers or the quality of service they’ll offer. …

Example:

The filing points to a 2014 Northeastern University study exploring the ways that companies like Home Depot and Walmart use consumer data to customize prices for different customers. Rosenfield and Antonini replicated the study using an online tool that compares prices that they’re charged on their own computers with their own data profiles versus the prices charged to a user browsing sites through an anonymized computer server with no data history.

What they found was that Walmart and Home Depot were offering lower prices on a number of products to the anonymous computer. In the search results for “white paint” on Home Depot’s website, Rosenfield and Antonini were seeing higher prices for six of the first 24 items that popped up.

In one example, a five-gallon tub of Glidden premium exterior paint would have cost them $119 compared with $101 for the anonymous computer.

A similar pattern emerged on Walmart’s website. The two lawyers found the site was charging them more on a variety of items compared with the anonymous web tool, including paper towels, highlighters, pens and paint.

One paper towel holder cost $10 less for the blank web user. …

It’s secret:

But unlike credit scores, there’s no transparency for consumers, and Rosenfield and Antonini argue that companies are using them to engage in illegal discrimination while users have little recourse to correct false information about them or challenge their ratings.

On Orbitz, Mac Users Steered to Pricier Hotels, by Dana Mattioli.

Orbitz Worldwide Inc. has found that people who use Apple Inc.’s Mac computers spend as much as 30% more a night on hotels, so the online travel agency is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see.