Last week on Tiger Print I wrote about how Facebook could soon begin giving away your personal information like home address and telephone number to third party companies who pay for the information. As I pointed out, this collecting and selling of information is nothing new. It’s called data-mining – and it has been around for dozens of years. It is the way that advertisers decide what kind of direct mail advertisement they should sent you through the traditional mail. It is the way Gmail determines what ads to run in your sidebar and email banner. An algorithm scans through your emails, sees you are planning a birthday party and ta-da you have ads for balloons, birthday cake recipes and party equipment rental.
Still, it can be scary to think companies have all this information about you and they use it to attract advertisers and make money. It’s especially scary when it isn’t well understood, afterall the companies aren’t actually after your home address, social security number or credit card number. What they are interested in is your spending habits, your hobbies, your passions – the things that make you spend money.
The US government is contemplating restrictions on what data can be collected, but as of yet, there are no serious restrictions on which companies can cull information.
Last week, Time Magazine featured a 6-page story on this exact topic, explaining how it works and what we should really be concerned about. It’s a great read and really eye-opening to the whole issue of data-mining.