Personalisation and Privacy

June 14th, 2015

Present day social media platforms have been designed keeping the marketer’s perspective in mind. It is about sharing the “status” that promotes consumerism, an air of inferiority, and makes us spend more on what doesn’t always translate into happiness.

Yes, just because someone else has done it, and we feel it makes them look good, comes around in innate desire to carry the same (or better). In effect, its the personification of a complex – that modern social sciences are gearing up to make us believe that it is “okay” to pursue our dreams, where in fact, we are subjecting ourselves to systemic dichotomy not realising the fact that it is eating into our privacy and individual personality.

Too technical? Perhaps not…

Being awed by what’s shared

Our social network timelines are a reflection of what we aspire to do in real life. In conversation, people are often caught discussing their latest vacation, or dinner outing with their friends, family or spouses. The latest restaurant or watering hole, and the new dish someone has learnt to cook or a new dress that is meant to make them look good. The intellectuals will find themselves discussing current affairs, technological development or debating about a journalist’s political inclination and why media should be neutral; including neutrality over the internet, and neutrality in education.

But, in the end it is all gossip. It is rare to find an entrepreneur who will talk about the risk he took, in creating new opportunities for himself and others around him. The courage and inner strength required to foresee opportunity and work towards that with utmost grit and determination.

It will be rare that anyone will discuss his or her failure, not because we have become a humanely empathetic society and understand their difficulties. On the contrary, if someone’s difficulties would have made us look better off, we would have been happy to discuss it. But it is because, the one who is successful has chosen not to discuss his path to success, through which he encounters many many failures.

And thus, when we talk to a person of success, often it comes around when they reveal that in order to achieve it, one must be ready to fight failure at every step. Trust me, they haven’t been sharing their difficult times, as opposed to celebrities we follow who tweet about a dish being good or bad at the latest deli in town.

Marketer’s paradise

But then, the social networks that have been developed, which help marketers learn about our tastes and preferences, are all designed to keep track of our status. In effect, every time we share a status update, the network learns more about us. It may sound like a conspiracy theory, but then it is a conspiracy against our personality.

Yes, there are many who have been led to believe our personality is built upon the liking of a certain brand or product. A brand or product that was in effect built and created by another man or woman. Although, I am not a patron of the John Galt theory (much less the depiction in the Atlas Shrugged movies), but just a reminder, “I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

Although, the statement can be well read as the declaration of independence and the start of one’s personality.

But where does privacy come in

The section above, doesn’t even detail marketer’s paradise. These posts are written in one flow, never re-read or edited before posting. But in effect, the marketer’s paradise will be evident when we think about how we share our status, and what we share. And what the social network, such as facebook or twitter learns from it, every time we share.

And that’s exactly, where privacy comes in. In the dichotomy of life, where we are consistently trying to make “statements of respect”, which call upon, “respect for the individual”, “respect for privacy”, “respect for society” and so on and so forth, we are increasingly sharing information with the “corporation” or select few individuals.

And in comes the next generation of technology

Where we are taking invasion of privacy to an all new level. From Google Glass, that’s been sold to a limited few, who can be suitably trusted to invade our privacy (I failed to understand, why only an American citizen could be trusted so). To other wearables, which are soon becoming a fashion statement, useful to track how we spend money from our credit cards, and share consumer information with the store’s payment system, or share information from the environment about our body temperature, heart rate, whether we have just walked in or jogged in, our fatigue levels (hackable and profitable information for an assailant), and then Siri or Google Now, which are touted as the perfect “personal assistants”. Assistants that will keep track of all our tastes and preferences, tell us exactly about how “we must” like our pasta, with “the right” amount of sauce, salt or “chutney”, and take away “the fun and frolic” out of eating the lousiest “gol-gappas” just because that taste palette of ours did not find it’s way to “Google’s context servers”, and the samosa that must only have “aloo” or “mutter” (peas), or “daal” (pulses). And completely let go of “the personalisation” that mother’s or grandmother’s recipe offered. “We must” all refer to “the grandmother’s recipe” available on Google or Apple or Windows. Bah! I don’t even want to discuss the latest developments in music, where the next track must be “suggested” to us. I’ll prefer “silence” (pun intended).

And think, it is not uncommon for a brand today, to seek your name, telephone number and email address every time you make a purchase over the counter. In the wake, that they will let you know, when the next sale is on, or invite you for a “preview sale”, what they have done is not only captured information about you, but they will continue to learn about your tastes and preferences, and your personal life in continued manner, that will help them increase their skewed earnings.

So, if you are an animal lover, you might be subjected to advertising about the brand of how their product has not been tested on animals. And yes, it will be socially correct to carry the fanciest leather on your shoulder, the rarest mink around your neck, and discuss cosmetics that have not been tested on animals.

That is what we have become.

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