While potentially upsetting, Target's efforts to identify pregnant women by their shopping patterns are non-obvious, and in sense ingenious. The nascent personal genomics industry, however, may be able to provide information to do one better. With only a handful of jurisdictions currently prohibiting the surreptitious collection of someone else's DNA, one could easily imagine large retailers employing legions of DNA collectors who could swab shopping carts for genetic sequence data. That sequence data could be simply and relatively cheaply associated with particular shoppers, and lead to targeted campaigns to those who may need lactose free milk, sugar free cookies, gluten free cakes or other specialty items.
Dov Greenbaum & Mark Gerstein
Unpublished letter in response to:
NY times Magazine, Charles Duhigg's "How Companies Learn Your Secrets" 2/16/2012