If I surveyed 1000 people about their opinions on online advertising, I am certain that people over, say, 35 would have much more negative views about it than those under 35. I’m sure a study like this has been done several times and my hypothesis is not exactly groundbreaking, but it does point to how familiarity with technology can change a person’s feelings towards it. My dad, for example, got a Facebook account about two years ago and put in a birthday that was two days after his
My dad, for example, got a Facebook account about two years ago and put in a birthday that was two days after his actual birthday. This didn’t exactly bode well for my brother one year, as he missed the real birthday because he put too much stock in the phony-birthday that was on Facebook. (I now text him the weekend before the real birthday just in case….) It is clear that my dad, and most of the other people in his generation, have an extremely strong embedded distrust of the internet as far as personal information goes. This is not to say that members of my own generation are just tossing their social security numbers around, but it doesn’t seem like we are quite as paranoid–I can typically trust that my friend’s birthdays are correct.
I found Charles Duhigg’s article “How Companies Learn Your Secrets” to be pretty fascinating and very creepy. It is amazing to me that there are people who are analyzing purchasing habits to the degree of minutia that they can predict whether or not someone is expecting a child (and approximately when she is due). I understand that it is important for companies to learn about their customers so they can get a good feel for the trends and put themselves in the best position for success, but there is certainly a point at which it become excessive. I, for one, hate seeing ads for things I recently poked around on Amazon for popping up on the side of whatever website I am on. I use AdBlock to minimize the occurrences of these things, but they inevitably show up and never fail to annoy me. However, I think that my annoyance comes more from the fact that I just don’t want to be seeing ads, rather than the fact that it is weird that the internet knows what I was just shopping for.
As far as Facebook goes, we really do put a lot of information out in the world when we scroll through our news feeds. I save a few links every day and it wouldn’t be hard for someone to look at the links I’ve saved to figure out some basic information about the things I am interested in. The crux of the issue is when that information is given out to a third party. If all Facebook wants to do is get information about me in order to curate stories that will interest me, that’s fine, but once that information is used by someone who isn’t me or Facebook, that is a problem.
I suppose that it would be naive to assume that I have any right to keeping my information private when I am using the internet so much and simply putting so much information out there. If I really didn’t want a third party to have access to something, shouldn’t I just keep it to myself? Then again, it is sad to think that we cannot truly trust something as simple as a social media site to let us interface with our friends and family in peace.