Top Five Stories of the Week: What Companies Know About You and Other Secrets

February 24, 2012

What happens when big companies start using the data they have on consumers to predict some of the most intimate moments of our lives? That's the focus of one of this week's most-shared stories, by the New York Times. Reporter Charles Duhigg reveals how the retail chain Target used its elaborate customer database to discover that a teenager was pregnant - before her own father even knew. As Duhigg notes, Target statistician Andrew Pole "was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a 'pregnancy prediction' score." Target could then send those customers coupons based on the specific stage of their pregnancy.

Top 5 most-shared articles by LinkedIn members (Feb 17, 2012 - Feb. 23, 2012) Follow @LinkedInToday

1. How Target Figured Out a Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did (Forbes)

2. How Companies Learn Your Secrets (New York Times)

3. The 8 Qualities of Remarkable Employees (Inc.)

4. 10 Things Bosses Never Tell Employees (Inc.)

5. Why QR Codes Won't Last (Mashable)

The piece resulted in a flurry of comments on LinkedIn and it also raised important questions about how companies will use our secrets in the future. Forbes' Kashmir Hill, in a smart summary of the New York Times' story, notes:

With all the talk these days about the data grab most companies are engaged in, Target's collection and analysis seem as expected as its customers' babies. But with their analysis moving into areas as sensitive as pregnancy, and so accurately, who knows how else they might start profiling Target shoppers?

Secrets, in fact, seemed to be the topic of the week on LinkedIn. Inc.'s Jeff Haden (who has two stories on this week's leaderboard) reveals the secret things bosses wish they could tell their employees. Among the confessions: bosses want to be liked, they want to pay you more and they actually want you to talk and have fun at work. (So don't lower your voice and pretend to be working when your boss walks by! Good managers know that you can have fun and work hard at the same time.)  You can read the full list of managers' inner secrets here.

Here are the other most-shared stories, broken down by industry: