THINKING FORWARD – Ideas for your work from MIT Sloan School of Management


Ideas for your work from MIT Sloan School of Management | Office of Communications


1. The pervasive use of digital consumer profiles by online marketers has long raised privacy concerns, but those aren’t the only red flags.

In a recent seminar for the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, MIT Sloan marketing professor Catherine Tucker challenged the accuracy and effectiveness of some digital profile methodologies and raised social issues that marketers should be aware of. Among them:

  • Audience segments vary greatly in quality. Data brokers often use online browsing records to create digital consumer profiles that they sell to marketers, but Tucker’s research shows data on consumers’ age and gender is most likely to be inaccurate.
  • People who frequently search and buy more online have more robust and stable digital footprints, while “poorer households have more fragmented digital identities,” Tucker said. Stable digital identities are easier to track and their purchases are easier to predict — and that perpetuates and widens the digital divide, she suggested.
  • Data exclusion is an ongoing concern. “For low-income families, there is a data desert problem,” Tucker said. Challenging marketing assumptions and revamping search algorithms to level the data profiling playing field will benefit consumers as well as advertisers.

2. Russia’s war on Ukraine is financed in large part by the export of oil. Russian export revenues since the February 24 invasion have actually risen, with the European Union continuing to buy 2.2 million barrels of oil and 1.2 million barrels of petroleum products from Russia every day.

In a policy insight published last week by the Centre for Economic Policy Research, MIT Sloan economist Simon Johnson and Anette Hosoi, a professor in the MIT School of Engineering, argue that “the only logical next step” is to prohibit all Russian oil and oil product exports, and to make it illegal to carry such cargo in European-owned tankers.

The researchers lay out 14 steps for achieving an embargo, including:

  • Issuing waivers that permit the controlled export of some Russian crude and refined products under specific conditions.
  • Placing proceeds from those sales in escrow accounts. The funds would be unfrozen once Russia withdraws from Ukraine, then used only to buy food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies.
  • Hiring and training Ukrainian refugees as cargo inspectors, with their salaries paid out of the escrow accounts.

Read the full proposal.

3. On her path from Wall Street to an environmental nonprofit, Jessica Toth learned the importance of advocating not only for herself, but for people at any level of the organization.

Toth, SM ’91, is the executive director of the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation. In a recent Q&A, Toth shared her experiences fighting gender bias:

On the importance of mentorship: “I hope to impact any and all, from senior men and women in positions of authority to young people of any gender and orientation,” she said. “Ultimately, we all need to be considered for our capabilities.”

On the value of persistence: Toth once encountered a potential client who engaged in exclusionary male banter before meetings and was openly dismissive of her business value proposition. “I continued to attend meetings, discussing our team’s expertise,” Toth said. “Over a couple years, the need for our services became evident, and we were hired.”

Content from the: MIT Sloan Office of Communications

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By MIT Sloan CDO