Sunday, December 15, 2013

When Metadata Goes Bad

Recently I was expecting a FedEx Ground delivery. It was an exceptionally large package so I wanted to give the FedEx delivery person some guidance on where to leave it.

To do this I had to register as a FedEx Delivery Manager. I gave it all the expected information of name, address, phone number, etc. I thought that was going to be all that was needed.

But then FedEx started asking me all these random multiple choice questions with random incorrect answers. They said it was to "validate your registration." That seemed odd as they could have done that by matching the airbill information with the information I had provided.

At first I thought it was just their scheme to get me to answer "None of the above" to some of the questions but too many of the questions and answers made no sense.

Here's a sample of the questions.

I didn't recognize any of the people listed. Nor had I lived on any of the streets. My birth month was in the list and I got that right but one out of three didn't "validate" me.

Fortunately it didn't kick me out before I got two questions on one page that I could answer. Other than my birth month it asked me what town my daughter (identified by her first name that nobody uses) lived in. That's really a pretty disconnected piece of information.

What was FedEx up to? What metadata were they using? Obviously they had crossed my metadata with someone else's. What if somebody else has crossed my metadata?


In a related vein, NPR had an article recently that described a web site that Acxiom has established that is supposed to give you "a glimpse of the online profile your shopping habits have created for you."

I'd say that glimpse was the operative word. I didn't find that they really showed me much information. Perhaps they didn't have much (unlikely) or they didn't want to show their hand (likely).

Now with this FedEx experience I wonder if Acxiom's data is accurate.

No comments: