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Icky New Ways to Use Personal Data

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Predictive analytics and Find Friends Nearby are two new contenders.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL This might turn into a weekly contest of sorts. Which website has unveiled a new feature or launched a new practice that represents the ickiest use of personal data? We have two contenders this week:

Orbitz (OWW), the travel site, displays upscale and expensive hotel options more prominently to users of Apple's Mac computers than to users of Windows. Its usage data showed that Mac users will pay up to 30% more for hotel stays than Windows users, and are 40% more likely to choose a four-star or five-star hotel. Orbitz executives told the Wall Street Journal that the practice is an experiment. This is an example of the growing use of "predictive analytics," in which online usage data is crunched to guess future shopping behavior.

Facebook (FB) launched Find Friends Nearby, a feature that pinpoints the location of other people who are currently in your vicinity, even if they are total strangers, or at least not Facebook "friends." In addition to its tremendous appeal to stalkers, this is intended as a handy substitute for swapping business cards. People can just friend people across the table to get their contact information. However, the feature may have died an untimely death: It was not available on the site Tuesday.
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