Providing personal information – A price we have to pay or a simplification in our daily life?

There is no such thing as a free lunch!

That sentence I remember very well from our Microeconomics class. Apart from using it in economics, I can say that this is also applicable for the use of social media. If you want to be part of a social network, you have to provide private information in return. And companies certainly know how to make use of them…

Nowadays, a business has to go different ways to promote its products or services; old-school advertising like posters, pens, cups or key-rings mostly don’t get the required attention anymore. Advertising through social media on the other hand can really make a difference. Businesses can reach a huge audience by mass advertising but it is even better when their advertising is tartgeted so they can reach a specific audience, their potential clientele. They can react to the people’s indivdidual needs and preferences by personalized advertising. How? In addition to the gathered keywords from email programs or search engines, they can create a profile based on your browsing history and by that people are classified into categories like age, gender, location, interest…

What about privacy?

The idea of personalized advertising rather made me shuddering than feeling comfortable with. I mean, isn’t it somehow creepy that your likes and dislikes are free accessible in the internet and used by companies to increase their profits? I didn’t like to use Googlemail because I knew they would scan the emails I write and receive for keywords to match with the adverts they show me. But of course I used Google as a search engine, and I knew that it was nothing else. However, scanning my emails seemed to be more an intrusion into my privacy than the words I typed into Google.

While searching for more information about personalized advertising, I came across the explanation how Google uses these keywords and how they try to make it convenient for Gmail user.

“Also, we are careful about the types of content we serve ads against. For example, Google may block certain ads from running next to an email about catastrophic news. …”

How can they manage that? They can’t always decide which emails contain devastating news for the email receiver personally. At least I don’t think computers can do that, and people don’t read the emails as Google always reassures (“Ad targeting in Gmail is fully automated, and no humans read your email …”), for more information on that go to http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=6603.

Continuing with my search, I discovered some interesting ideas about personalized advertising which made me think differently about the whole issue.

Matt Kasznel, for instance, a senior journalism major, mentions some good aspects about the usage of personalized adverts. In his blog post Personalized Internet ads: not so bad” he points out that it is better and definitely less annoying if you are shown adverts that match your interests than anything that has nothing to do with yourself or what you are doing. That’s true, right? So businesses try to “… sell you what your profile says you like.” And you might actually benefit from it.

What I still don’t like about personalized advertising is the gathering collection and keeping storage of information, it makes me feel uncomfortable to know that in some years Google or Facebook will still know what I favored back in 2011.

However, Google is now improving the system; they want to react according to user behavior. For instance, if you report an email as spam, it won’t be searched for keywords and you will not see any adverts for this email. They also make it possible for you to turn off the whole feature.

Honestly, I guess we are all glad that Facebook and Googlemail, Twitter and flickr don’t charge us for using them. They put adverts next to our pages instead and bring together companies and their target audience.

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7 Responses to Providing personal information – A price we have to pay or a simplification in our daily life?

  1. unitedtribes says:

    Dear Karen, I think your blog is well composed in a very convincing way. In the beginning, I was attracted by the very unpleasant fact that my googlemail is automatically scanned. But, soon after going through your reading, I feel ok with the scanning because I am using the mail for free and it is better to be exposed to some selected ads than a bunch of ads. More importantly, I would like your blog because it encourage me to work harder ^-^
    Moon Jung Koo (298032)

  2. pimbalee says:

    Hello, Karen!!

    I did enjoy reading your blog, because from the very beginning I thought – oh, again, about Google and Facebook, but you wrote something new for me as the fact that the spam messages are not considered as normal messages and so a user will no longer receive any advertisement from the spam messages!

    Gut zu wissen! thanks!))
    Marina!)

  3. moonjungkoo says:

    Dear Karen, I think your blog is well composed in a very convincing way. In the beginning, I was attracted by the very unpleasant fact that my googlemail is automatically scanned. But, soon after going through your reading, I feel ok with the scanning because I am using the mail for free and it is better to be exposed to some selected ads than a bunch of ads. More importantly, I would like your blog because it encourage me to work harder ^-^
    Moon xx

  4. lisaneubert says:

    Dear Karen,

    I enjoyed reading your post about personalized advertisement. And it was interestimg to read how you have found your topic. I’m also a bit frightened about all this personalized advertisment, but I have to admit that I’m not angry or whatelse about it. It doesn’t touch me so much, unfortunatly maybe. But what can actually happen? I mean nobody of us is kind of criminal or so, aren’t we? I would really like to know whether you care about it very much or do you feel like I do? And do you think personalized advertisement can turn into an “open” advertisement, so that evcerybody can see what I like or what I don’t like? Maybe this would become one point on which advertisement will matter for me.
    Nevertheless, you make me thinking (as you could read) and maybe also aware of this tricky things while searching and writing mails 😉
    Thumbs up!

    Lisa

  5. natiliab says:

    Hey Karen,
    Your post is so smoothly to read- I couldn’t get enough of it. First of all, I really like your writting style! In addition, I think you cleary stated that you are against personalized advertizing because social networks or search engines scan mails and store information. But at the same time you provided the reader with positive criticism and the advantages of facebook, google, twitter etc.
    Your post reminded me of the documentary that we watched last semester. I think the webside of ‘The Virtual Revolution’ is very interesting. In case you did not check it out yet: http://www.bbc.co.uk/virtualrevolution/

  6. itgalina says:

    Dear Karen!
    Thanks for your amazing post, I loved reading it. You came up with an actual and very important subject that matters to 99% of us, cause we all are using facebook.
    The question about privacy on facebook has been on my mind for a long time. Sometimes it really scares me, that someone can read all the stuff I write to my friends. Great that you also mentioned the profit the facebook owner make out of it. I also agree that we prefer to pay with our privacy than with our money.
    I am really looking forward to hear more about this topic and maybe some ideas how we can protect ourselves as costumers!

  7. itsonja says:

    Hey Karen,
    very well written and interesting post. I liked how you contrasted the good and the bad sides of the internet privacy issue. I also feel that way about google, the idea that they search every email for keywords seems quite scary to me. On the other hand I’m glad that we can all uses these services by google or facebook for free so one will have to accept the downsides of data scanning. It was very useful to learn about certain measurements of how to protect ourselves from that. Well done! 🙂

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