Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Online Assignment 4-5: In the digital society

            When I looked at my Facebook data, I was initially shocked at the amount of information they had stored about me. However, I wasn’t actually “surprised” because I posted, uploaded and liked everything they had stored at some point. What I did find interesting was the information about the ads Facebook has shown me and how they directly correspond to the pages I’ve liked (even pages dating back to 2008). Which makes me wonder how they target people who don’t ‘like’ pages. I liked those pages when I was in middle school (when it was cool) and now I don’t like any pages, so why does Facebook use my interests from 5 years ago to target me today?

When I looked into my Google profile I was surprised on how little they knew/got right about me. It’s obvious to determine gender and age based on my account and search results but Google didn’t seem to have a clear grasp of who I am. A new computer and Google account may account for some of the inaccuracy, because according to my Google profile, I’m interested in Chinese cuisine and gardening. But, they also correctly identified that I’m interested in beauty/makeup, fashion/style and crafts. The reason Google was wrong about some of my interests was probably based on sites I visit for school, leading Google to assume I am interested in things I’m not. Therefore, I think some of their advertising attempts to target me have failed because I won’t click on nor care about a Home Depot gardening ad.

Overall, my experience in this exercise suggests that life in the digital society is monitored, stored and public. When people say that stuff you post on the internet never goes away, it’s completely true. Everything I’ve ever done on Facebook has been stored since I first logged on in 2008. It truly never goes away even if we can’t see it or think it’s gone. This definitely has shifted how I’ll communicate and interact online because even if the profiles these sites have on me aren’t perfect, they track everything I do online and save all the things I search, say and post. In a DailyKos article, Nathan Newman said, “Companies like Google with the most specific personal data can better target ads and thus dominate the…market. What this…means is that…privacy…can easily be distorted in a non-competitive online environment. Companies… have a strong incentive to violate privacy if it serves their behavioral targeting goals. Thus you end up with Google continually breaching consumer privacy” (Newman, 2011). It doesn’t matter what I search or where I post, companies want to know anything and everything. Based on Newman’s article and my experience, it’s concerning to think that the information one puts out on the internet is in reality fragile. This information is what companies are literally clawing after in hopes of obtaining it and even Google is willing to sell our privacy to them, which is no doubt unnerving. I definitely plan on being more cautious and aware of what I’m searching and posting online because those things define who I am…even if it’s not who I am.

Newman, N. (2011, March 29). You're Not Google's Customer -- You're the Product.
     Retrieved December 11, 2013, from

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