The international tech giants, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Apple (amongst others) are in a battle for your information. After all, most of these companies thrive on the sale of your data, you are willingly making yourself the saleable commodity of their business.
Disagree? How do you think, five minutes after looking at a pair of shoes on a website, every single website shows you ads for that same pair of shoes? Or what about how Gmail displays ads about the content of your emails around the screen? If that’s not enough, maybe how Microsoft has started to change the default search engine of Chrome users on Windows to Bing.
Why do companies do these things? In short – to get your information. Your interests, age, education, job, location and more are all things that big companies need from you. Why? To sell you stuff! The internet has been the biggest catalyst for the advertising market in history.
However, this need to gather and understand data is nothing new. All that’s changed is the means by which they do it. You may be shocked to learn that the Tesco Clubcard launched 25 years ago in 1995, and that the Boots Advantage Card first graced wallets in 1997. They launched for the same reason that targeted advertising online did. The minute a company can link your purchases together identifiably, they build patterns and know what you’ll buy next before you do.
Of course, these schemes have a benefit – they give you vouchers and money off your shopping in exchange for your information. The issue with online targeted advertising is that there is nothing to trade for your information.
Sure, they give you free access to internet search and let you communicate with the world through platforms like Facebook. It comes at the cost that your information is being used to influence society, as happened in 2016 with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica influencing people to vote to leave the European Union.
By turning you into a typecast, people ‘like you’ are told that they will like the same things you do, and then they end up falling to those stereotypes. They like the things they were told they will like, and people become homogenous.
This isn’t Orwell’s 1984, this is today and it’s real.