First Click: If we’re gonna get our data mined, at least buy us dinner first

June 5th, 2015

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Stalking is more common than we like to think. We all do it: people do it with Google to vet dates, while Google (and others) does it with people to mine data. The key — the difference between creepy and cool — is knowing what to reveal, and when.

We used to employ that neural network called the “brain” to track down people in phone books. Just knowing a name would quickly lead to a physical address and phone number (ironically, the same data we find way too personal to share publicly today).

With the internet, knowing a name lets us quickly find a person’s Instagrams, Tweets, and Facebook profile in order to build a fairly accurate profile for the purposes of woo. But subtlety is the key. For example, you’ll score points when you just happen to choose a restaurant your date reviewed highly on Yelp. Serendipity, cool! Betraying your data mining activities on a first date by asking “Will you be ordering the clams again?” will out you as a creep.

Same goes for companies.

A study published today found that people are resigned to the fact that they’re being profiled — but they don’t like being reminded of the specifics. According to The New York Times:

"Forty-three percent of respondents said they would accept a discount if the supermarket where they shopped kept detailed records of their purchases. But only 19 percent said they would accept discounts if the supermarket could use their purchasing history to make assumptions about their race or ethnicity."

Yet the study also shows that companies can earn our trust by being transparent with the data they collect and by offering us a semblance of control. Google did just that earlier this week by rolling out its new privacy hub for control, and privacy site for transparency. The trick is not revealing too much too soon.

Google starts by presenting all the user benefits for collecting your data (relevant ads, malware protection; faster, smarter, better services), before dispelling myths ("we do not sell your personal information"), and providing links to the privacy control tools. It’s only when you dig deeper that you find a list of all the information Google collects in order to build its advertising profiles. Still, to Google’s credit, you can find it if you’re willing to look. Most people aren’t. In fact, most get a sense of reassurance just knowing these types of sites exist, regardless of what they say. According to the same study:

"Many consumers may not fully comprehend the data-mining practices that occur when they use sites and apps. For instance, 58 percent of survey respondents wrongly believed that when a website had a privacy policy, it meant that the site would not share their information without their permission."

Fifty. Eight. Percent.

Look, we’re no better than Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, or Apple. We mine data, they mine data, and nobody wants to be a creep.

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  2. Snowden celebrates the world’s rejection of surveillance two years after NSA leaks

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  5. Wow, this dog earns GIF of the year

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