Migrating Affinity and Customer Relationship Data to Drive Altruistic Outcomes

I saw a very interesting article in the WSJ weekend addition that I was perusing between kid chaos, pancake batter being thrown to the four corners of our kitchen and learning of the latest technical difficulty via my four year old who was unable to access her favorite Barbie video on our Apple TV.

Big Data Serving the Public

The article immediately captured my attention with its headline. “Researchers Bet Casino Data Can Identify Gambling Addicts“.   Ever since the beginning of my formal career I’ve been an ardent fan of data and in particular the power that this data holds to drive a more precise enterprise outcome or provide fuel to the attainment of a business goal.  In the last two to three years we’ve seen the landscape of data and analytics raised to its rightful place in many business leaders minds.  What is particularly exciting about this article is that during graduate school I remember sitting through a captivating discussion from a Teradata  executive detailing a case study involving the roll out of a unique analytics solution for a large publicly-traded casino entity.  In this solution, Teradata was helping this particular casino operator to visualize all manner of interesting characteristics in its business in near real time.   One visualization example that was presented was a heat-map that showed the level of play in a variety of slot machines over a 24 hour period.  In this quick example, the executive showed how the casino operator was able to look at frequency of play and then re-arrange machines, time-tables of drink servers, and other parameters to try and increase play in dormant areas.

Jump forward several years later and you now see that same industry taking the same affinity data that was used to feed loyalty programs and reward programs being used in a different, but equally useful manner.  In some ways, this comprehensive approach to the utilization of data in an enterprise is the holy grail or pinnacle of what good data systems and design should illicit.  The capability for data to be used both as a profit generator and serve an altruistic role in identifying challenges of certain players from a gambling perspective.

What are your thoughts?  Can an organization use this data well in both ways (for profit & altruistically)?  Is there an obligation of organizations where applicable to use there enterprise data to serve the public good if they can?