ISP Apartheid

Be honest, you probably already assumed that at least some corporations were doing something along these lines:

 A Wall Street Journal investigation found that the Staples Inc. website displays different prices to people after estimating their locations.

Presented with the Journal’s findings, Staples acknowledged that it varies its online and in-store prices by geography because of “a variety of factors” including “costs of doing business.”

And be honest again: You’re assuming that “costs of doing business” include ways to dissuade certain people from shopping there, right?

[T]he idea of an unbiased, impersonal Internet is fast giving way to an online world that, in reality, is increasingly tailored and targeted. Websites are adopting techniques to glean information about visitors to their sites, in real time, and then deliver different versions of the Web to different people. Prices change, products get swapped out, wording is modified, and there is little way for the typical website user to spot it when it happens.

The Journal identified several companies, including Staples, Discover Financial Services Rosetta Stone Inc. and Home Depot Inc.,  that were consistently adjusting prices and displaying different product offers based on a range of characteristics that could be discovered about the user. Office Depot, for example, told the Journal that it uses “customers’ browsing history and geolocation” to vary the offers and products it displays to a visitor to its site.

Apartheid of the zip code…

Apartheid of the area code…

Now the apartheid of the ISP and browser.

Remember that when next you apply for a job through some online-only application system.

Because – and, again, be honest with yourself – you know it isn’t just customers that are being shafted and weeded out.

Yes you do.

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1 Comment

  1. Targeted marketing on websites is not necessarily pernicious… just probably pernicious.

    And as for your point regarding employment applications? … yes.


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