Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mike Anheuser Online Assignment #4

It is remarkable, but at the same time a bit disconcerting to think about the technological advances we have made in digital media. We are constantly interconnected by a network that expands across the globe. While it is great to have this great power to communicate in my hands, it also worries me that the giant companies that provide these services hold so much more in their own. Facebook and Google are leaders in data collection, using extensive technology to develop profiles based on our web habits. After exploring what kind of information these two sites had on me, I am still amazed at what capabilities they possess.
I first looked into my Facebook data archive and came across seemingly infinite data, just about ME! Each folder in the zipfile contained information pertaining to my profile, whether it was pictures, videos, wall posts, contact info or events that I attended. Literally all of my activity since I first joined Facebook is archived in these files, accessible at any time. This does not necessarily trouble me as much as it just simply amazes me. I was also interested to find a file called “ads” that showed the different ads that had shown up on my Facebook, even noting which ones that I have clicked on in the past. This did get me thinking about how Facebook is considered a more private and safe form of social media, but at the same time, everything you have done is still on record for Zuckerberg and friends to sift through. Luckily I have no criminal intent and have nothing to hide, otherwise I could be in trouble!
I was similarly impressed with the information Google gathered regarding my interest. Many of them actually rang true, save for a couple random outliers. The interests taken from my previous searches were basically focused around sports and entertainment topics, which are what I usually read about or search on the internet. The only two that confused me were “Toyota” and “women’s clothing”; which I do not recall looking up on the web recently! For some reason, the interests that they gathered based on the websites I have visited all related to business, banking and investing. I check up on these issues on occasion, but I most certainly would have expected a few more interests regarding sports, music and current events.

Overall, my experience with this assignment has further opened up my eyes to the dynamic of today’s digital media society. We are, and from now on, will be living our lives in a fishbowl. Someone will always be watching us or our online activity. Smartphones can capture any moment and sites like Facebook and Google can capture almost any kind of information that we share on the internet. Naturally, this should make anyone feel uneasy, as the line between appropriate and inappropriate Big Data collection needs to be closely monitored. I think that it is important for us all as heavy digital media users to be wary of this issue. Since I have nothing to hide, I can tolerate the actions that these sites take to gather information about me. However, as soon that line is crossed, I will definitely fight for my privacy. 

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