Monday, December 16, 2013

Online Assignment #4-5, Sawyer Olson

            From what I observed from Facebook and Google, I was not very surprised with the content. I was expecting a much more in-depth record of my search history, recent purchases, old conversations from Facebook, and other detailed information. Google’s list of what I tend to be interested in seemed to be a collection of topics and trends I recently typed into the search bar. For example, the number one result was “Oldies and Classic Rock.” Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I am not an avid fan of this genre of music. Then how did this end up at the top of the list? Two weeks ago I searched, “A Hard Day’s Night opening chord,” in the Google search bar. At the beginning of this song by the Beatles, an obscure, complex chord is struck before the melody begins. After hearing this, I became interested in dissecting what instruments, notes, and techniques were used to produce this sound. What started as curiosity quickly turned into an hour-long search of multiple sources. As it turns out, what makes up this chord has been debated since the very first time it was heard by the public. In just one hour, I had searched and visited sites about the Beatles music multiple times. As a result, the algorithm likely running the Google search engine identified me as a person who enjoys “Oldies and Classic Rock.” As it says on the Google information page, the list is generated “based on the websites you’ve visited.” Also on the Google information site is another category of interests that is generated, “from your previous searches.” In this section, my top results were Athletic Apparel, Banking, and Bicycles and Accessories. According to About Google Ads, Google generates a list of what a user is interested in based on recent, previous searches related to your current search, and Google Web History. Overall, I was not troubled or surprised by any of the information Google had collected about me, and I do not believe Google knows me very accurately. Their history records and algorithmic targeting are not enough to have a realistic idea of who I am.  

            Facebook was similar in that nothing in the information troubled or surprised me; however, I was intrigued by the extent of the records Facebook had. Facebook had records of all my relationship status changes, “likes,” and conversations. The conversations that had been deleted by me were not available, but I now understand what it means to “Archive” a conversation. Although the conversation may vanish from the message bar, it is kept in the zip file of information that can be accessed at any time. I find this to be interesting because there have most likely been many court cases and legal disputes where these records were accessed and used as evidence for cyber bullying, stalking, or harassment. The availability of these records for this use is certainly a positive aspect of Facebook keeping track of every users activity. 

            For now, there is no reason to be concerned about the information Google and Facebook keeps about their users. Sadly, the same cannot be said when it comes to the American government.

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