But, are you going to buy them?


As a student majored in Computer Science, I think this article of Times Magazine well introduced the idea of data mining. Data mining is one of the hottest topic in today’s internet industry. With the data mining idea, users’ footprints over internet are collected and analyzed by different companies. In the other word, there is an “estimated” you on the internet. The other “you” is similar to your age, has similar income as you, and even shares similar interests with you. If you use internet every day and do all the shopping and surfing online, then the other “you” could share more information with you than you expected, including your phone number, SSN, even your home address and where your kids go to school. At the same the, the other “you” has been sold to different companies as cheap as 5 cents. The algorithm technology companies now have is so sophisticated and comprehensive that once you click on a shopping website, you pretty much handed one of your name cards to the company. However, what freak people out is not the point that companies are collecting the private information. They are also selling them.

After knowing how much you make, what your size is and even what color you prefer, a online clothing shopping website could easily target you to specific items, which fits your size and preference exactly. There are people think this is the advantage of technology, and it make life easier. However, there are more people consider this is a threat towards their privacy. When you see the buying suggestions from Amazon, which is exactly what you want. Will you buy it? Or feel insulted by Amazon?

On the other side, if you are the business administrator, would you buy those information? You know you can find your target customers, and you no longer need to pay unnecessary advertisement fee for people who never read them. All you need to do is to pay the “data mining” companies as cheap as 30 cents a person, you might profit more efficient than you can ever imagined.  Will you buy the data? Or feel this is not an ethical business model at all?

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2 thoughts on “But, are you going to buy them?

  1. I think you bring up some great points here. I think it is particularly interesting that companies are able to sell our information to other companies. This is most certainly an invasion of privacy. If I give my information to Netflix for example, I expect Netflix to use my information for their purposes only. I do not expect Netflix to give my information to other websites and I especially do not expect them to make a profit off of that. This is unfair and unsafe for the consumers.

  2. I have never seen the “almost-you” expressed this way. Is that all your idea? Or is it how this issue gets discussed in computer/technology circles?

    It is also so cool how this reminds me of the whole idea of the avatar in the virtual environment. From the , Matrix to a host of other game, movie, or book (yes, book, read 1982’s , Neuromancer, for the perhaps first use of a 3d virtual world populated by avatars). Here, it is not a virtual world, but like a virtual social map of who all these consumers/users are. The data miners can construct a close-to-me avatar to predict what I will do.

    One issue I find fascinating is how “close” the almost-you has to be before it triggers fears or concerns. For example, when I see an ad in a magazine, I don’t feel like I am being targeted, even if my demographic is. We like the anonymity of our groups when they are sufficiently “big.” We feel threatened when that marketing strategy is not at a group I am in, but at the “me” I am in.

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