Finding Comfort in the Future of Consumer Digital Data
Your digital data improves your digital day-to day
The recent Facebook scandal has really shown a division between the three kinds of people in the world:
- Those who feel victimized by data-buying
- Those who don’t care about their digital data
- And, those who actually find consumer data usage beneficial. *raises hand*
The way I see it, search engines and social media use consumer information to improve the user’s experience and provide more personalized, practical tips and tactics to succeed in their goals. If you are in the market for a new bathing suit, and the ‘online world’ knows you prefer the color red and have sporty interests, so they serve a sporty, red bathing suit ad to you…Would that not be helpful?
Sure, the argument can be made that Facebook and other social media channels were made to connect people in the community. But, does the community not include merchants and businesses? Would we all not benefit from the whole community interacting as it does in the non-digital realm?
Q: What information of mine is being collected?
You leave a digital footprint as soon as you open your browser window via your IP address (basically the identification code of your computer/tablet/phone). Then, as you continue your journey of searching and clicking, your data is tracked and recorded on any site you visit that wants to follow it.
Using your IP, the digital realm records things like your current location, what browser you’re on (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.), which links you’re clicking on, whether you’re on desktop or mobile, and other information you choose to give it through form fills and specific actions on that browser.
Think about the Google Suite, for example, you’re working around in your Gmail, accepting invites to your calendar, looking up directions on maps…maybe you take a break to watch a video on YouTube (owned by Google)…all the meanwhile, Google is absorbing your data.
It can put a full portfolio about you together based on:
- Things you search for
- Websites you visit
- Videos you watch
- Ads you click on or tap
- Emails you send and receive on Gmail
- Contacts you add
- Calendar events
- Photos and videos you upload
- Docs, Sheets, and Slides on Drive
Google Analytics doesn’t stop after you leave your “Google Suite” pages, either. It follows you as long as you’re using that browser—every browser does.
It can track if you jump from social media to a specific website, if you are referred from one website to another, how long you spend on a particular site, and so much more.
Q: How are these businesses finding my data?
For individual websites to follow you and log data, they usually drop what’s called a “cookie” on your system when first visit—just as a way to tag you.
Have you ever left something in your shopping cart, then left the site and returned with it still there? It could only remember you because of the cookie it tagged you with.
That’s why Facebook, Amazon, and Google can get away with literally listening to your conversations when their app/artificial intelligent personal assistant is on.
Websites can also choose to monitor your inputs even more closely than the analytics reported above using heat mapping and real-time tools like LuckyOrange, which can follow a single user as they explore a website.
Using this tool, you can literally watch an individual user scroll in real time, see what he/she is viewing, and open a chat with that user. It’s amazing–revolutionary digital analytics.
Q: Tell me again, why is this invasion of privacy beneficial?
Businesses want to help you. They want to help you buy their product, because they want their product to help you. Website owners want to find out as much about you as possible because they want you to hang out with them, stay on their site longer, and personalize their services to you.
If companies can recognize who you are and get a better understanding of what will be useful to you, they can stop guessing and start giving you what you need.
No more wasting your time in between Youtube videos with commercial ads for cat scarfs or psychic readings (blasted to everyone). Instead, maybe you’ll be served an ad more unique to your interests, for the new pair of adidas tennis shoes out.
Our society loves everything customized, but not our online experience? Everything needs research to get better, including our digital experiences.