by Brandi Savitt – February 21, 2013
…And You Don’t Even Know It?
Yesterday, I read an article by Michael Fertik in Scientific American that was as alarming as it was fascinating. Sure, we all talk about the power of the Internet. But did you know that behind the scenes of the World Wide Web, advertisers and developers are learning everything they can about YOU – whether you’ve agreed to it or not…
In fact, so much data is collected through Google, Facebook, and the apps we use, that advertisers are now predetermining everything from the ads we see to the information that comes up when we search for something, to how much we are charged for a product! And we are not all treated equally… Our ‘worth’ is being determined every second and we may not have as much control over our online experience as we think we do.
Fertik’s main question: Do the rich see a different internet than the poor?
Personalized or Manipulated Content?
According to Fertik, “thanks to technology that enables Google, Facebook and others to gather information about us and use it to tailor the user experience to our own personal tastes, habits and income, the Internet has become a different place for the rich and for the poor. “ This targeted advertising may seem to have an upside because our interests are being catered to – but is it too invasive?
Data collection is used by more than just the advertising industry. Companies use this information to make decisions about us – including whether we are even worth marketing to at all.
If you seem to be in a certain socioeconomic class, you may never find what you’re actually looking for if you’re searching out of what has been perceived as your ‘norm’ or ‘class’. Fertick suggests that if you live on the wrong side of the digital tracks, you may not ever see a credit offer from a lending institution, and therefore you may not realize that you may be eligible for a much needed personal or business loan.
One Price for You, Another for Me
Over the past decade, many e-commerce sites have altered prices based on your Web habits and personal attributes! From your geographical location to your buying history, every possible detail – down to the time of day – is collected when you make a purchase. This information is then used to determine how to optimize pricing to get you to buy more. As technology advances, so will pricing optimization.
Fertick uses the example of how a company like Amazon pushes the base price of an e-book up if it determines you are more likely to buy that particular item than an average user. On the flip side, the price may be lowered as an incentive if you are judged less likely to purchase. The crazy part is, no one is even aware that they may be paying more or less than their next door neighbor for the same product at the same store!
Do You Really Care?
The truth is, we live in the information generation and with a little digging online, we can easily find info on almost anything and anyone we want. Does that make all of this just part of the package? Or is our privacy and ability to shop competitively online more important?
Is this making the case to go out shopping at the mall instead? Tell us what you think!