The Price of Loyalty: A Gendered Analysis of Consumer Surveillance
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Consumer surveillance, seen in the social sorting capabilities of loyalty marketing, is gendered. Using Canadian examples, gender is added to the existing literature on social sorting in relation to class (Burrows and Gane 2006; Parker, Uprichard and Burrows 2007) and racial or ethnic background (Gandy 1993; 1996; 2006a; 2006b; 2010; 2011). The prevalence of loyalty programs in Canada raises some significant issues regarding social sorting, as they tend to allocate unequal life chances and choices based on certain aspects of individuals’ profiles, allowing retailers to focus their efforts and resources toward their most desirable clientele. It is important to consider the role that gender plays in loyalty marketing in order to understand how being labelled a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’ can influence how one’s personal information is categorized and utilized by companies. As these programs use data mining and social sorting techniques to attract preferred customers, men and women are targeted in different ways by different loyalty marketing schemes, depending on the perceived value of their digitized profiles. The findings of the 2006 Globalization of Personal Data survey are interrogated for a background analysis of gender and loyalty. A statistical analysis of the Canadian responses investigates whether membership rates and popular attitudes about loyalty programs vary significantly between different demographic groups.