A/S/L, the Jokes on Us

First we were warned about our online identity privacy, when chatting on AIM. You know, the common “age/sex/location” question that would provide you all the information you needed to know about the person on the other side of the screen? And now, our privacy concerns are not truly in regards for others, but for ourselves.

After 15 minutes, my collusion results.

After 15 minutes, my Collusion results.

Until now, I had never heard of “Collusion,” but found it to be quite useful, not on my behalf, but for the marketers, advertisers and content managers of the sites that I tend to visit. One of the things that I noticed was that a lot of my browsing history shared my behavior with sites like Google analytics for the obvious fact that I read a lot of blogs. I’ve used a similar software to monitor the traffic on my personal sites, but never knew that someone could find out that they were being monitored. I was actually impressed that sites such as Behance and wedding photographer Jamie Delaine would go through the trouble to want to know more about me, especially if these pages are not so much focused on the commercial aspect of content. My one question though, was about the “unblock known tracking sites” message that took up a majority of my online web. What does that mean about those particular sites? My first impression was spam, since I do have a blocker on my browser, but I could be wrong. Actually… all of this sounds like some form of spam. Tricksters.

After reading Cory Doctorow’s “Scroogled” and Alexis Madrigal’s Atlantic article ”I’m Being Followed: How Google—and 104 Other Companies—Are Tracking Me on the Web,” my guesstimations of what the Internet empire is capable of were proved. You cannot trust anyone, not online, not anywhere. The online world has become increasingly sophisticated and as users, we have dug our own graves. Because we have gone from people privacy to personal privacy,as Madrigal states “the bad news is that people haven’t taken control of the data that are being collected and traded about them” (133). Therefore, what does this say about us as an online community? I never see the “block cookies” message anymore, and I honestly haven’t cared that much to see why they have ceased to show up on my screen. Ain’t nobody got time for that. The truth of the matter is though, that our privacy concerns seem to be an indirect contrast of the fact that while we don’t want to be tracked and become annoyed at the trash on our sidebars, we become upset when our purchasing habits do not influence or suggest “future purchases.”

On occasion, I notice while I’m on Facebook or YouTube, that my recent searches correlate to the advertisements or “suggestions” targeted at me. Sometimes I’m embarrassed and sometimes I’m interested to pursue a certain link. What’s funny is that it all ties back to the “what will they – or someone who borrows my computer – think of me?” Thus, I think not only once, but twice about everything that I search, even if it’s in the back of my mind. For example, the internet or the computer has often been the source of  online investigations. In regards to Casey Anthony trial, an article published by the New York Times cites not only the opinion of a software developer, but also the importance of digital footprints left by Anthony which lead prosecutors to believe her premeditated motive. So while computer evidence and forensics have historically conclude that our online searches have the potential to cause more harm than good, it remains important for us to consider the implications of our web presence.

I honestly don’t mind that my “surfing” information is available for advertisers, but what I do have concerns about are the ways in which we are being threatened by the job market for the information that we make available. I believe in respecting oneself and the phrase “if it’s stupid don’t do it – or post it,” but at the same time, for someone who has maintained an online presence since the summer 2004, I am offended by their comments. I understand both perspectives so much to the point that I am nervous to even click on a link, for fear that it will remain on my record forever. But there should never ever be a fear of the Internet. That is the madness. In my opinion, recruiters and admissions counselors should review our online history and take into consideration that we have been there since the beginning. It’s hard to go back in time and erase the past, thus, don’t hold it against us if something posted on our profile “back in the day” comes into question. Far from the fate of “Scroogled,” I believe that people should get a second chance. At the same time though, Madrigal’s article opened up a whole new area of research about online and web privacy that I am dying to take a further look at. I’ve always known it was important, but I never knew that people cared so much as so develop “categories” or explain reasons for tracking.

Mark Zuckerberg knows what's up.

Mark Zuckerberg knows what’s up.

 We have always been taught to be media and technology literate, and it doesn’t stop there. Especially with increasing online privacy concerns, my suggestion is to always remain cautious. Challenge yourself and ask yourself about the future of your decisions. Weigh the pros and cons because it’s important that as active users, we are able to read the fine print and understand what exactly we are compromising  Take for instance the controversy surrounding the privacy about Instagram. In attempt to “helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups [by way of] fight[ing] spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used,” controlling user information is essential. But, that doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to ask questions. We are the Digital Millenials, and we are entitled to have our voices be heard.

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