After looking at the information both Google and Facebook have stored about me, I have come to two conclusions. First, both of these websites have a ridiculous amount of information about me, ranging from my demographics to my interests, and second, that the majority of this information is extremely accurate. Without me purposefully giving any clues about who I am to Google, it has done a remarkable job of shaping a profile for me. Here is a sample of some of the interests of mine that Google has collected: computers and electronics, food and drink, humor, online video, rap and hip-hop, and TV shows and programs. With these “interests” being listed in front of me, it makes a lot of sense why and how Google came to these conclusions. Both Google and Facebook have only one way of determining who you are as an individual, and that comes from what you type into the search bar or what you like/post on their site. The scary thing is that millions of people use both of these services on a daily basis. Google and Facebook are the first and second most visited websites respectively (Alexa.com). With this enormous amount of daily traffic, both of these sites have an almost infinite amount of information to analyze and categorize the people who use them. This is quite worrisome, especially with the developments in the NSA spying scandal. If these two corporations have this amount of information about me, imagine what the government knows. There is almost no way to remain anonymous online. Not all of this is negative, having advertisements targeted to your interests can be a good thing because instead of being shown an ad for something you have no interest in, and you can now be exposed to products that may potentially be beneficial to you. An interesting thing I found on the Google page is at the bottom of the website there is an option to opt out of interest based ads on Google. Now while this might seem like a reassuring thing at face value, the fact that someone has to find this page about the ad settings, and then scroll all the way to the bottom in order to opt out of target based ads is a large hurdle to overcome. If it weren’t for this class, I probably would of never known about this ad settings page. I’m assuming that most people are in the same boat as I was a few hours ago, blissfully unaware of this option and unaware of what exactly the Internet knows.
This all being said, it may be time for people to take a hard look at their Internet usage and make some changes. While it’s extremely convenient to type in any question that pops into your head into Google, these seemingly inconsequential actions are in fact just the opposite. With the Internet comes greater connections between people and more access to information for the general population (lecture), but when is too much? With the positives come the negatives, by allowing people to search whatever pops in their head it also creates a bridge from websites to know exactly what we are thinking.