The Devil is in the Data

Published by Izaak on

Data Blog: Remember we discussed the amount of M&M’s that would fit in Pluto in our previous blog? If not or haven’t read it, we strongly encourage you to do so. You will find some interesting findings about digital reading in 2019. Not convinced yet? Well, we will also reveal if the M&M’s are the ones with or without peanuts..You will definitely have something interesting to talk about at the coffee machine at work tomorrow 😉 !

In ‘From Papers to Browsers‘, we presented the research performed on online reading and the way content is perceived. What you might not be aware of is that most webpages use your browsing behaviour, location data, the type of device (using all those yummy cookies you keep accepting from that annoying pop-up) and additional personal data you provide, to give content recommendations and ads based on your profile. Whenever such a profile is established, how inaccurate it may be, the advertising agencies think they know what you’d like to see. 

We can all relate to that one nice vacation you so badly needed. Spending hours & hours online finding that gem of a trip, finally half-blindly filling your credit card details to book that perfect, well-deserved holiday. You obviously haven’t bought the additional cancellation option, which means you, whether you like it or not, will go on this holiday. So why is it that after this you keep on being bombarded with ads for other holidays, hotel discounts or even this very same trip? It won’t be of any use; you’ve already committed yourself to this lovely break? You probably recognise that from the first time you’ve searched “Ibiza” online you get suffocated by ads in the same category. Even worse, you’ll get those ads long after you’ve returned home, painfully reminding you that you’ll have to wait for a year before going on your next holiday..

Not only is this way of advertising intrusive, moderately aggressive and inaccurate, it also means that somewhere on the internet, (wrong) information about you is stored and sold to third parties, without you having any control over your own data.

Over previous years, businesses have come up whose sole purpose is monetising consumer data for various purposes such as personalised advertising or targeted marketing campaigns. Almost all your online behaviour is tracked, and used to generate a profile. If you’re not paying for an online service, you can assume that your data is the commodity. Thankfully, new regulations such as the European GDPR or the CCPA from California are steps in the right direction when it comes to keeping your privacy safe, limiting tracking and giving back some control of usage of your own data. ‘The right to be forgotten’ and other measures are expected to give internet users more control over who has possession of what data, and what you can do with it. This means these data-driven companies have to find other ways to track and personalise a user’s online experience. 

“Almost all your online behaviour is tracked and used to generate a profile. If you’re not paying for an online service, you can assume that your data is the commodity.”

Luckily, not all companies are batman villains and some are taking measures to protect your privacy. For example, browsers adjustments such as Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Protection for Safari or Google’s steps to protect internet users’ privacy by reducing the amount of third party cookies in Google Chrome, are promising developments. The internet is moving in the right direction, but is still highly dependent on the big tech companies. At first glance, Google Chrome’s step sounds like an improvement, but if you really think it through this only gives Google more power in the ad market space. The data market is constantly changing due to rules, regulations and companies trying to monopolise the industry. 

Data is the gold of the 21st century, and it should be handled accordingly. Internet users should be informed about what their data is used for and who it’s shared with. Wouldn’t it be better if we are able to control our own data, instead of trusting big businesses to protect our privacy? We at Katalysis think it is. Examples like Google ‘protecting’ privacy by excluding third parties show that it’s better to be in control of your data yourself. We think everyone should be in control of their own personal data, including the ability to delete or modify what’s being done with this data. Steps in the right direction are certainly being taken, but we’ve still got a long way to go…