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    Los Angeles Times: Hunch wants you to give it some ideas

    The Los Angeles Times profiles a new company that uses data farming and microdemographic data.

    Launching today after a year in development, Hunch aims to supply users with computer-generated advice on thousands of lifestyle and consumer questions: What kind of dog should I buy? What should I get dad for Father’s Day? Which book by George Orwell would I like?

    Most important, though, Hunch is not a search engine. […]

    Hunch computes answers by comparing what it knows about you to what it knows about people like you. […]

    By first inviting users to answer as many as 1,500 questions about themselves — an addictive kind of personality test that involves such diverse questions as political orientation, relationship status and whether you believe in UFOs and keep your closet organized — Hunch looks to assemble a demographic profile whose depth could rival anything in the commercial universe.

    The New York company also believes that users stand to benefit from this kind of large-scale data farming — not just from getting better answers, but also from discovering the many microdemographics to which they belong. Hunch also says it will not sell user data to marketers.

    But this promise, written into the site’s privacy policy, is not precisely a legal contract, said Siva Vaidhyanathan, a new-media scholar at the University of Virginia, and the difference leaves the data it collects in a fuzzy domain.

    “Without any strong consumer protection laws with respect to privacy,” he said, problems can arise in unforeseen situations, such as what happens to your data “if a company you can’t trust buys a company you can trust.”

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