Was Your Daughter Killed in a Car Crash? Database Marketers Want to Know.

| Mon Jan. 20, 2014 10:49 PM EST

Do you ever wonder just how much personal information all those database marketing folks know about you? The short answer is: A lot. One company alone processes 50 trillion transactions a year and boasts that it has collected 1,500 "data points" each on 500 million active consumers worldwide (including a majority of adults in the United States). Try reading this and this if you want to get up to speed. But for pure creepiness, it's hard to beat this:

A suburban Chicago couple who lost their teenage daughter in a car crash last year feels as if they were victimized again after receiving a letter from OfficeMax Thursday. The envelope was addressed to Mike Seay, but the second line read "Daughter Killed in Car Crash."

Seay's 17-year-old daughter, Ashley, was one of two teens killed in a crash last April when their SUV veered off the road and slammed into a tree in Antioch.

Yep. "Daughter killed in car crash" is an entry in somebody's database record for Mike Seay. And why not? Grieving parents might be a soft target for certain kinds of goods and services, after all. You have to take advantage of those kinds of opportunities.

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