You Are What You Buy

June 24th, 2010 | Sources: Washington Post

Subjects: ,

In the latest permutation of social networking, you are what you buy.

Sachin spent $4.98 at Starbucks. Jenna bought earrings for$3.19 from Target (“They dangle/match my new dress”). AllieJ purchased Kind of Blue from iTunes for $8.89 (“’So What’ is such a classic!”)

isanyoneoutthereTwitter-like feeds like this are appearing on these new social networking sites, which include Blippy and Swipeley. The feeds permit—indeed, encourage—users to automatically broadcast purchases they make to the world. And that lets people reveal their personalities through their purchases. Some people think is a good thing.

Are you a Levis guy or a Polo jeans guy? McDonald’s or Taco Bell? Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks? Here’s your chance to let everyone, and I mean everyone know!

According to Philip Kaplan, the co-founder of Blippy, users share $1.5 million worth of their purchases each week on his site, and that number is growing rapidly. Users give the company access to their credit and debit card accounts, along with other online accounts like Netflix and iTunes. Blippy compiles and posts their purchases.

Users can block certain purchases from their profiles, but Blippy’s default settings are set to “share all.”

Blippy has focused on user acquisition rather than monetization so far, but it hopes that the data it’s collecting can be eventually sold to marketers looking to understand purchasing behaviors in various demographics.

Privacy experts wonder whether users fully understand what’s happening when they sign-up for the service (even though it’s explained completely in the Terms of Service). “It’s not just about a private exchange between friends. The business is basically about providing access to you to advertisers and marketers,” Jeff Chester told the Washington Post. “There are little strangers listening in,” added Chester, who works for the Center for Digital Democracy.

Amanda Lenhart, a senior research specialist at the Pew Internet & American Life Project added that “people often fail to remember who is in their network, even though you’ve created it yourself.”


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