On my first website visit today a giant advertisement slowly opened on the front page of my local newspaper and I had to click to close it. I then noticed the “like” advertisement had opened so I refreshed the screen to remove it. When I clicked on the first article link another advertisement required a click to close and I then saw the poll to the right that wanted me to click a programmed answer (opinion) to the article I had not yet read. And those we just the visible intrusions… Somewhere my choices were being recorded behind the scenes, remembering how long I stayed on the page, the page I came from, the page I would go to, and associating those choices with an IP address which often provides the general area I am in, and the ISP provider. My recorded statistics will also include the type of browser I am using and the type of platform (operating system) in use. If I came from a search engine the search terms, search words, and phrases used to find and locate the article or page will also be recorded.
I have nothing to hide in regards to my online activities and so nothing to fear, or do I?
What concerns me is not that various components of information are collected for decent purposes as I suffer from the concept that most people have good intentions, are honest and ethical in their intentions, and that perhaps so good may come from the information my basic web practices provide. My concern is targeted toward the vast data mining and marketing algorithms, sharing and selling of information between entities, and targeted use of that information for gain by corporations (or groups) based upon generalities.
I would be very upset if I found my picture used to advertise some product that I disagreed with because I failed to update my Facebook policy status (for example). I would also be upset if some comment I made might be utilized by some special interest group whose actions or focus was contrary to my beliefs.
I received last week a “personal” photograph of Mr. Romney, a current presidential candidate. It was addressed to me, personally, and had a laser based signature across the bottom as if he and I had been buddies in college. Heck, he even used my “nickname”. What? How did he get my nickname? All my legal documents use my full name and so I wonder just how far political parties, special interest groups, our government, and especially “unsavory characters” might go to put together the digital pieces of our lives.
Traditional publishing media is economically adrift and is embracing new revenue streams which we are being conditioned to accept as part of our online lives. As we become conditioned to accept click to close, mouse overs, and those advertisements that run in “free” videos, it is how this information will be used that will ultimately enhance or diminish the online experiences of everyone that connects to the outside world.