Thursday, December 12, 2013

Online Assignment 4-5

      People always told me that everything I post online is permanent. I never saw the implications of this, because old posts and searches were no longer visible to me. Looking through all of the data that Facebook has collected on me, I began to realize that everything I post of the internet, no matter how insignificant it may seem is there to stay. Facebook has tracked when, how long, and from where I have been active on the site. It even goes further than documenting my activity on its own site - it knows what applications I have on my phone and it generates a list of ad topics based on my interests. Combing through all of this data and seeing that Facebook has literally documented everything from the very moment I joined the site on Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 3:49 pm, scared me a little bit. It made me realize how careful I need to be with the content I upload to Facebook and other social media websites. Even things that I had deleted from my timeline were still accessible in my user data.

As far as my Google profile, I found that based on what I use the internet to search for, I could see how Google would come to the conclusions it did about what I am interested in. But it seemed like Google associated my interests with the searches that I make for practical reasons only. Therefore, what they thought I was interested in was slightly skewed. For instance, I use the internet to look up the campus bus routes all the time, and as a result, one of my interests was listed as “Bus & Rail”. It also said that I was interested in banking, which is something that I have absolutely no interest in. But, I suppose I have looked up information about my bank account online, so I could see why Google would say this. That being said, I do not think Google should conclude I am interested in banking based on this. Google got some things right, though. I use Google to look up new movies and music, so a lot of my interests were things such as “Arts & Entertainment”, “Music and Audio”, etc. Overall, the interests listed seemed more like a generic list than something tailored to me personally.

We live in a digital society, which has implications that are far reaching. With the use of the internet, privacy is no longer a virtue. Our desire to be connected and work efficiently has taken away the human face from our interactions and supposed interests. To us, Facebook is a website we go to in order to socialize. To Facebook, we are simply data they can add to their archives and use to target us as consumers. Our Google searches, which seem harmless and mundane, are constantly being scrutinized by those who attempt to determine our likes and dislikes. The lack of privacy is slightly troubling, but what bothers me more is the fact that every bit of data taken on us is used for selling products and making money. Every post, Facebook “like”, and search is analyzed by those who want to target us with their advertisements.

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