Monday, June 17, 2013

Venus Fly Trap Sale Just For You

While the topic of information and privacy has been dominating the news lately, it certainly should not come as a big surprise that our digitally interconnected world, while replete with many valuable and useful devices and services, also has a significant downside when it comes to privacy.    Unfortunately, in order to function in this world, it is almost impossible to completely disconnect and refrain from sharing personal information on these networks.  Our medical information, our banking and taxes details, even what brand of cornflakes we buy are all regularly and systematically stored and analyzed by machines.

If you would like to see first hand how quickly this information can be processed, distributed (read sold) and used to communicate with you (read sell you) some product or service, I have a simple project you might like to try.  

First, think of a topic about which you have no interest.  The more arcane the better but it can be as simple as buying a new car.  Begin by spending a few minutes on Google or another search engine using your chosen topic.  The more sites you go to the better.  Next, go to and search for books, videos, and products that relate to your topic.  You don’t need to buy anything.  Also, if you use gmail or yahoo or any other free email service, send someone an email with the bogus topic included in the text.  You can send the email to yourself.  It makes no difference.

Repeat a few times and wait.  Sooner than you might think, i.e. a matter of days, when you sign on to Facebook or or any website that carries ads, you will begin to see ads that relate to your specific topic. Click on one or two of these ads.  You need not purchase anything.  In a week or so you will more customized ads about your bogus topic than you will ever care to view.  

The more arcane the topic you choose the more apparent the targeting will be.  Most sites have generic ads for cars and soap, few will have ads for the care and feeding of Venus Fly Traps.

While the results of this test will be sobering and scary for some, it is not meant to scare you but only to serve as a reminder to all that the information we share is retained, distilled and shared.  Remember that the next time you swipe that supermarket card or give a clerk your email address so your receipt can be emailed to you the savings or convenience comes with a cost.


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