The right price—the one that will extract the most profit from consumers’ wallets—has become the fixation of a large and growing number of quantitative types, many of them economists who have left academia for Silicon Valley.
It may come as a surprise that, in buying a seasonal pie ingredient, you might be participating in a carefully designed social-science experiment. But this is what online comparison shopping hath wrought. Simply put: Our ability to know the price of anything, anytime, anywhere, has given us, the consumers, so much power that retailers—in a desperate effort to regain the upper hand, or at least avoid extinction—are now staring back through the screen. They are comparison shopping us.
The weakness involves the way these browsers display certain characters in the address bar. Until Google released version 58 in the past 24 hours, for instance, Chrome displayed https://www.xn--80ak6aa92e.com/ as https://www.apple.com. The latest versions of Firefox and Opera by default continue to present the same misleading address.
A security loophole that would allow someone to add extra steps to the counter on your Fitbit monitor might seem harmless. But researchers say it points to the broader risks that come with technology’s embedding into the nooks of our lives.