Esri, a US-based global provider of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), has developed the  ZIP Code Lookup tool that enables the user to enter any ZIP Code in the United States and glean  information about the people who live in that area, such as household type, income, employment, vehicle preferences, and leisure activities.

Deriving its information from the Census bureau, it has created an exhaustive dossier of demographics and socioeconomics of the population residing in various areas, right down to shopping preferences.

Adrienne LaFrance of the Atlantic does a demo and tests the application only to find the level of detail ‘striking’ and ‘eerily accurate’. She further says, “What does all this say about the extent to which consumer behaviours inform perceptions of a place and the people who live there? From a marketer’s perspective, it seems, you are what you pay for. And marketers today know more about American consumers’ behaviors than ever before.”

Esri makes this possible by mapping zip codes across the US and linking them to 67 profiles of American market segments.

LaFrance writes, “Here’s how Esri describes the “top tier” profile of people who live in 90210 (Beverly Hills), for example:

“We’ve achieved our corporate career goals and can now either consult or operate our own businesses. We’re married couples with older children or without children. Every home maintenance chore in our lavish homes is handled by a variety of contracted services. We can indulge ourselves in personal services at upscale salons, spas, and fitness centers, and shop at high-end retailers for anything we desire. We travel frequently, sparing no expense in taking luxury vacations or visiting our second homes in the U.S. and overseas. Evenings and weekends are filled with opera, classical music concerts, charity dinners, and shopping. We support the arts and other charities, read to expand our knowledge, and depend on the Internet, radio, and newspapers for information. Spending time with family and a small circle of close friends is a priority.”

The app provides for information on income, age, and population density in a given zip code as well.

This raises serious questions about data collection regulations in the US. As LaFrance writes, “..someone trying to profile you can fairly easily learn how much money you make, your education level, whether you own a home, who you voted for, how many kids you have, how much credit card debt you’re carrying…” The are currently very few regulations on data collection in the US- and with the variety and sheer mass of data continuing to rise, so profiles are only going become more eerily accurate.

Read more here.

(Image source: Esri Zip Code Lookup)

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