Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Online Assignment 4-5

     When I first looked at my Facebook data, I wasn't as surprised as I had expected to be. Most of the facts they had about me were things I had willingly entered at one point or another. I enjoyed reading back through all of my old messages and the random pages that I had "liked" back in middle school. I became a bit more concerned as soon as I got to the "active sessions" part that listed all the times I've logged in to Facebook. It not only showed me that I go on Facebook too often, but also that my actions are more monitored than I'm aware of. However, it's not surprising to me that Facebook tracks this kind of activity, given the fact that they alert you whenever someone logs in to your account from a new location. My thoughts on this form of tracking are mixed. Part of me likes the security aspect that lets me know if anything suspicious is happening, yet the other part of me feels like it verges on being over-informed regarding my activity and location. The section that bothered (and confused) me the most was the advertising one. There were many topics listed that related to the old and current pages I liked, but there were also random ones. For example, "#tiger" and "#cancer" were among the list of topics that applied to me. I don't know the reasoning behind either because I don't recall ever posting or doing anything related to these topics on Facebook. Seeing how random and outdated many of the topics were made me wonder why Facebook doesn't update their advertising techniques. If an ad relating to a tiger showed up on the side of my news feed, I don't think I'd be one to respond to it.
     In regards to Google, the results I got were much less tailored to who I am. While the company knows my basic information thanks to my Google account (such as age, gender, etc.), they know little about my personal interests, which I found surprising. There were only three interests listed for me: banking, recording industry, and fashion/style. While I go to my bank's website every now and then to check on my account, I wouldn't say I do it frequently enough for it to be an interest. As for recording industry, I have searched things regarding music before, but I don't remember searching for anything regarding the recording process. The fashion/style category is by far the most accurate, seeing as how I love online shopping and pop culture. What surprised me the most about all of this is the fact that only three interests were listed. I feel like this may have to do with the fact that I have a couple of different ad-block programs running on my internet browser, which may interfere with the data they are able to collect.
     Overall, I think one can conclude from this exercise that privacy is no longer what it used to be. Life in the digital society is much more public than many of us are aware of.  Using technology, companies can gather your information, track your whereabouts, and tailor their messages to your specific characteristics. Employers can check your social media before making hiring decisions. Phone numbers and home addresses can be accessed through sites like The internet has made our personal information public knowledge, storing each and every detail. Based on what I learned about Google and Facebook's data collection, I'll be more likely to think twice before I put my personal information on the internet or post something I may regret. This includes storing credit card information on a store's website or tweeting something controversial. The internet is both permanent, in regards to archived content, and personal. The question that remains is just how personal it will be in the future, and whether or not privacy will be eliminated altogether.

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