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Italian profilo, from profilare to draw in outline, from pro- forward (from Latin) + filare to spin


  • 1: a representation of something in outline; especially : a human head or face represented or seen in a side view
  • 2: an outline seen or represented in sharp relief : contour
  • 3: a side or sectional elevation: as
a : a drawing showing a vertical section of the ground
b : a vertical section of a soil from the ground surface to the underlying unweathered material
  • 4: a set of data often in graphic form portraying the significant features of something <a corporation's earnings profile>; especially : a graph representing the extent to which an individual exhibits traits or abilities as determined by tests or ratings
  • 5: a concise biographical sketch
  • 6: degree or level of public exposure <trying to keep a low profile> <a job with a high profile>


Profiling (Information science) refers to the whole process of construction and application of profiles generated by computerized profiling technologies. What characterizes profiling technologies is the use of algorithms or other mathematical techniques that allow one to discover patterns or correlations in large quantities of data, aggregated in databases. When these patterns or correlations are used to identify or represent people they can be called profiles. Other than a discussion of profiling technologies or population profiling the notion of profiling practices is not just about the construction of profiles, but also concerns the application of group profiles to individuals, e.g. in the case of credit scoring, price discrimination, or identification of security risks.

Profiling is not simply a matter of computerized pattern recognition; it enables refined price-discrimination, targeted servicing, detection of fraud, and extensive social sorting. Real-time machine profiling constitutes the precondition for emerging socio-technical infrastructures envisioned by advocates of ambient intelligence, Autonomic Computing and ubiquitous computing.

One of the most challenging problems of the information society is dealing with the increasing data overload. With the digitizing of all sorts of content as well as the improvement and drop in cost of recording technologies, the amount of available information has become enormous and is increasing exponentially. It has thus become important for companies, governments, and individuals to be able to discriminate information from noise, detecting those data that are useful or interesting. The development of profiling technologies must be seen against this background. These technologies are thought to efficiently collect and analyze data in order to find or test knowledge in the form of statistical patterns between data. This process is called Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD) which provides the profiler with sets of correlated data that are used as "profiles".

Demographic profile

A demographic or demographic profile is a term used in marketing and broadcasting, to describe a demographic grouping or a market segment. This typically involves age bands (as teenagers do not wish to purchase denture fixant), social class bands (as the rich may want different products than middle and lower classes and may be willing to pay more) and gender (partially because different physical attributes require different hygiene and clothing products, and partially because of the male/female mindsets).

A demographic profile can be used to determine when and where advertising should be placed so as to achieve maximum results. In all such cases, it is important that the advertiser get the most results for their money, and so careful research is done to match the demographic profile of the target market to the demographic profile of the advertising medium. For instance, shortly after the cancellation of Star Trek in 1969, NBC's marketing department complained that was premature. They explained that their newly instituted demographic audience profiling techniques indicated that the series' main young urban audience was highly desirable for advertisers. In 1971, CBS acted on their own marketing department's demographic findings about their television network's programming and canceled several series that appealed primarily to older and rural audiences in a move nicknamed the rural purge.

A good way to figure out the intended demographic of a television show, TV channel, or magazine is to study the ads that accompany it. For example, in the United States the television program "The Price is Right" most frequently airs from 11 a.m. to Noon. The commercials on it (besides the use of product placement in the show itself) are often for things like arthritis pain relievers and diapers. This indicates that the target demographics are senior citizens and parents with young children, both of whom would be home at that time of day and see that show. Another example would be MTV, for it has many ads with digital audio players indicating that the channel is targeted to young adults and teenagers and/or fans of music.[1]