If you’re not paying for the service, then you’re the product

TBIT / Pixabay
TBIT / Pixabay

The state of privacy in America from the Pew Research Center

Fully 91% of adults agree or strongly agree that consumers have lost control of how personal information is collected and used by companies.

So our online habits are being mined by companies, is that a bad thing? Arguments can go back and forth. For example, Google uses that information to customize search results to my viewing habits. I see entirely different results from Google than my daughter with the same search terms. Target is using the data for targeting ads (pun intended)

[A] man walked into a Target outside Minneapolis and demanded to see the manager. He was clutching coupons that had been sent to his daughter, and he was angry, according to an employee who participated in the conversation.

“My daughter got this in the mail!” he said. “She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”

The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again.

On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

Is it creepy or now just a way of life? Researchers using Facebook were able to find out a user’s race, IQ, sexuality, drug use, personality of political views simply from likes.

The research into 58,000 Facebook users in the US found that sensitive personal characteristics about people can be accurately inferred from information in the public domain.

Researchers were able to accurately infer a Facebook user’s race, IQ, sexuality, substance use, personality or political views using only a record of the subjects and items they had “liked” on Facebook – even if users had chosen not to reveal that information.

Personalized learning is the next big disruption in education. When the computer knows everything about you, the computer can teach you better than any person ever could. The computer would know your personality, your skills, your secrets, and be able to leverage that information to teach in a way that has never happened before. Is that a bad thing?

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