Months ago, I got into a discussion about what privacy means and how (according to this person, anyway), my generation doesn’t value it. We’re all too forthcoming with our lives. We share everything and we’re not paranoid enough.
The point was, he thinks that we’re all going to regret it someday. Don’t we want our lives to be only our own? Don’t we want others to just butt out?
I essentially told him he was an old fart. I’m super easy to find on Google. I overshare. I tweet about the funny (and sometimes inappropriate) things that happen to me.
Mind you, this has gotten to me in trouble in the past. Once, I got an angry phone call from my dad about how I was venting on Twitter about things that aren’t supposed to be online. Another time, my mom called to tell me that dropping the F-bomb on Facebook was a bad decision. (I suspect putting these two instances into a blog post may result in more phone calls. Oh well.)
But while I’m comfortable with sharing the details of my life on my own terms, I don’t know how I feel about how companies gathering information on me. Inspired by Time’s latest cover story, I decided to check out PrivacyChoice.org to see what came up.
Here is a sample of what I found out:
• Google knows that I like movies, music, TV, books, poetry, electronics, toys and college sports. All true. Google also thinks I fall into the 25- to 34-year-old male demographic.
• Yahoo thinks I’m interested in health and wellness, winter holidays, celebrity gossip, spirituality and shopping. It also has down that I’m a 19- to 25-year-old female in Reno. This is all more or less accurate. On a freakier note, it also knows what OS I’m using (Windows XP), what browser I like (Firefox), and my screen resolution and color depth.
There were three other profiles (bluekai, bizo and exelate), but the synthesis of all that data about me is too much for one blog post.
It just makes me wonder: how far is too far? How much is too much? Will I live to regret everything I ever put on the Internet?
Or should I roll with it, because really, what’s wrong with targeted advertising? Wouldn’t that make things better and more efficient?
Unless, you know, they think you’re a a guy just because you like sports and electronics and toys.
Maybe that just proves that no matter what companies track and no matter what algorithms come up with, there’s an element to life that can’t be processed electronically. And on some level, privacy is a part of that.