Yes, you ARE being watched
September 22nd, 2005 by JTJ

piece in The Guardian this week (some of the Brit papers are a very
good read) discusses how Tesco harvests — and then replants —
customer data.  This is of interest because Tesco, a British
company, is hankering after the U.S. grocery chain, Albertson´s. 

See “Tesco stocks up on inside knowledge of shoppers´ lives´´ below and “
Profile of an upmarket C10 desertersidebar.

Tesco stocks up on inside knowledge of shoppers' lives

· Crucible database is exhaustive – and secret
· Government bodies are tapped for information

Heather Tomlinson and Rob Evans
Tuesday September 20, 2005


is quietly building a profile of you, along with every individual in
the country – a map of personality, travel habits, shopping preferences
and even how charitable and eco-friendly you are. A subsidiary of the
supermarket chain has set up a database, called Crucible, that is
collating detailed information on every household in the UK, whether
they choose to shop at the retailer or not.

company refuses to reveal the information it holds, yet Tesco is
selling access to this database to other big consumer groups, such as
Sky, Orange and Gillette. “It contains details of every consumer in the
UK at their home address across a range of demographic, socio-economic
and lifestyle characteristics,” says the marketing blurb of dunnhumby,
the Tesco subsidiary in question. It has “added intelligent profiling
and targeting” to its data through a software system called Zodiac.
This profiling can rank your enthusiasm for promotions, your brand
loyalty, whether you are a “creature of habit” and when you prefer to
shop. As the blurb puts it: “The list is endless if you know what you
are looking for.”

publicity material was, until recently, available on the website of
dunnhumby, but now appears less forthcoming. Attempts by a number of
Guardian reporters to retrieve their own personal information under the
Data Protection Act led to a four month battle; the request was
ultimately denied so the Guardian has appealed to the Information
Commissioner. Tesco has provided some personal data held by Clubcard,
the loyalty scheme that monitors members' shopping and which has been
credited with fuelling the supermarket group's astronomical growth in
the past decade.

as far as Crucible is concerned, the company admits it has “put great
effort into designing our services” so information is classed in a way
that circumvents disclosure provisions in the Data Protection Act.
Clues about the content of dunnhumby's database have appeared in the
company's marketing literature. Crucible, it says, is a “massive pool”
of consumer data. “In the perfect world, we would know everything we
need to know about consumers. We would have a complete picture:
attitudes, behaviour, lifestyle. In reality, we never know as much as
we would like.” But Crucible, it suggests, has got much further than
rival systems by pooling data from several sources and then using the
vast Clubcard data pool to profile customers.

Crucible and Zodiac can generate a map of how an individual thinks,
works and, more importantly, shops. The map classifies consumers across
10 categories: wealth, promotions, travel, charities, green, time poor,
credit, living style, creature of habit and adventurous.

“Mrs Pumpkin” is cited: she makes pennies work when she shops, mostly
uses cash, has a steady repertoire of products but experiments with the
new, shops at various times, spends a little more on eco-friendly
items, is involved with charitable giving, is rarely away and likes
promotions for things she buys.

does Tesco get the information? Clubcard is used to target promotions
at particular cardholders. But Crucible is separate and Tesco insists
that while loyalty scheme data is used by Crucible it does so
anonymously rather than a house-by-house, name-by-name basis.

chairman, Clive Humby, offers a few more clues. Companies such as
Experian, Claritas and Equifax have databases on individuals and
Crucible collects from them all. Any questionnaire you may have
completed, any reader offers you responded to, are bought to build up a
picture of attitudes and habits. Crucible also trawls the electoral
roll, collecting names, ages and housing information. It uses data from
the Land Registry, Office for National Statistics and other bodies to
generate a profile of the area you live in. Zodiac is employed to
provide a more detailed profile. The combination is valuable to many
consumer goods firms: dunnhumby generated profits of £4m on sales of
£28m in the last year for which accounts are available. Some £12m of
business was done directly with Tesco.

Humby and Edwina Dunn founded dunnhumby. The two have a reputation as
shrewd operators in the marketing industry and still own shares in the
firm alongside Tesco's majority stake. How the supermarket group and
other customers use the data is less clear. One former employee
involved in the company's marketing told the Guardian that it can be
used to decide how to target offers to individuals or where to open new

Tesco spokesman said last night: “All work carried out by dunnhumby is
regulated by the Data Protection Act and the Direct Marketing
Association Code of Practice.” But, as the supermarket unveils yet
another set of sparkling half-year figures today, one thing is clear:
while past success may have been built on the company knowing its
customers, Tesco plans to secure its future by knowing everyone else's
customers as well.

Profile of an upmarket C10 deserter

it comes to my personal information, I'm a natural paranoid. So when
signing up for a Tesco Clubcard to get those cashback vouchers and
offers, I made a point of providing as little information as the
application would allow.

matter. According to Tesco's disclosures under the Data Protection Act
(DPA), in the year my card was in use the supermarket managed to build
a substantial – if rather wayward – portrait of this reluctant
shopper's habits. A formal DPA request, followed by numerous letters to
and fro, a terse telephone conversation and finally, a fax explaining
that, yes, this information would be used in a journalistic exercise,
finally produced two sides of information.

I'm a gal who hankers after “finer foods”- indeed, a “natural chef”,
though friends tell me this probably has more to do with my tendency to
cook with natural ingredients than any signs of being a budding
Nigella. I am, Tesco determines, “upmarket” – a reference, I suspect,
to my habit of buying organic food (Green & Blacks mint chocolate
being a particular favourite).

database defines me through the past four years, placing me in the
mysterious “C10” category for 2003, having been an “H13” a year earlier
– whatever that means. My “family type” is “other,” though alternative
social options are not listed. Most importantly for the supermarket, I
just don't spend as much as I could there. Under “share of spend” with
Tesco I am deemed to have “potential”.

household carries a “reference number”, the date of my last visit, with
branches used in the past. It says whether I have used Clubcard
vouchers and correctly states I do not want my personal information to
be passed to other parts of the “Tesco Group”. There is no information
as to whether I am diabetic, teetotal or have a special diet.

slots describe my “shopping habits”, each carries the words “Not
shopped in last eight weeks”. Clearly, I'm a Tesco deserter and a prime
candidate for those £10-off vouchers that have been dropping through
the letter box of late.

· To learn how to get your personal information under the Data Protection Act, see

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

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