I never know how much stock to put into the whole “Big Brother is Watching You” thing. I mean, that’s the way the internet works. Facebook and Twitter and Google and… almost every site is tracking my clicks, gathering data for future use.
I consider myself web savvy; I know what sites and emails are safe to visit, and I am even happy to ‘opt in’ to cookies as I prefer targeted advertising over random. I use Facebook and Google extensively, and I know that they need to pay their staff somehow. Besides, it’s not about me – I’m just a statistic, right? A trend line on a graph somewhere.
According to this recent article on Vice, all of that data that I’ve thoughtfully and thoughtlessly offered up to the world has painted a clear personality profile… not of someone like me, but of ME, myself and I.
This article reads like a left-wing conspiracy theory, but it’s based on facts. To sum it up, a company called Cambridge Analytica created an algorithm that pulls from a bunch of different sources of online data to build personality profiles of people, and then took the next step: they associated that personality with the person’s name and address. This information was sold to political parties (ie Donald Trump’s campaign) allowing them to direct targeted advertising, both online and in person. The data gathered by the algorithms allowed the campaign to determine what each individual wanted to hear on each issue, and delivered that promise. According to the Vice article, this is why so many of Trump’s messages seemed to contradict themselves: because they were specifically targeted to different audiences, each hearing the version that spoke to them.
Now targeted political messaging isn’t new – Justin Trudeau came to BC to speak about tourism, forestry and the Pacific Ocean, he spoke to Energy and job creation in Alberta, and to the Auto manufacturers in Ontario. But this is data-driven personalised marketing so much more elegant – targeted and effective. It doesn’t help that cultivated and curated social media feeds affirming our established beliefs just feed into our narrow world-view bubbles.
So that’s what has been keeping me up at night lately. What do you think about this use of data collection? Is it an invasion of privacy, or the price we pay for the convenience of our social media feeds?
Twitter: Big Data = Big Problems. The true costs of “free websites”. #socialmedia #privacy http://bit.ly/2liNYoJ
Facebook: Big Data = Big Problems. We’re not just a number anymore. http://bit.ly/2liNYoJ