It is no secret that today in 2021 when it comes to our privacy online, there ain’t much of it anymore. Whether it’s our internet provider, smartphone, websites visited and web browsers, apps installed, they all spy on us and with our consentment (have you read the terms of agreements before using this new app you’ve just installed?).
Obviously today’s spying is nothing like in the famous movie «the lives of others» that takes place in 1984’s Communist Eastern Germany. Today it’s all algorithms, learning machines, AI, and scripts (cookies, most notably), etc. And the main reason for spying is strictly commercial. It’s why you get to see super (maybe too much) personalized ads, why your internet browser remembers your activity or even why youtube is so good at suggesting you relevant videos just for you. Big Data is watching you ladies and gentlemens.
Some may say it went too far, and there’s definitely some cases that could justify this statement. For example, it’s been established that many big insurance companies are using all available online data about people in order to determine their ratings. As explained in a CBS News article, it’s a practice called “price optimization”, that consists of using big data by collecting information about people and “This helps insurers determine how much they can raise an insured's rates before the person starts shopping around. Several states have caught on to this practice and have banned it.” (CBS News, How "big data" gives insurers a giant edge over consumers, 2019).
It can seem indisputable to condemn the “online spying” we are all victims of, but I’ll have to play the doctor’s advocate here and point out some observations that will maybe make you reconsider your thoughts about the problem.
The most evident argument is that it allows us to enjoy free tools and platforms that are literally life changers. We can think of Google & Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, and most of the free apps and tools that are now part of our daily lives. To keep existing but also to keep innovating, these companies would have to charge for their services if it wasn’t for that implicit agreement they have with us and our personnel data. Because sadly, nothing is totally free in this world we live in. Now secondly, when it comes to targeted advertising, some may say it can be a little bit too intrusive, but is it better to see relevant ads that might interest us instead of random ads that aren't relevant to us at all? I myself prefer to see ads about things that interest me like guitars, instead of random ads about ladies dress. And even though the targeting is powerful, It doesn’t mean you always have to buy the ultimate decision that comes to you at the end of the day.
In conclusion, this debate about online privacy isn’t as one sided as we may think. There can be good arguments from both sides, but one would agree that some regulation in certain practices, just like in the insurance companies I used as an exemple, would help prevent injustices and abuses.
Web Marketing Consultant & Web Entrepreneur