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Do websites know you better than you know yourself?


Do websites know you better than you know yourself?

It’s 2018 and we’ve just found out that Facebook is selling our data to benefit advertisers, there’s a massive uproar followed by media frenzy about our lack of privacy and safety on the internet.

Now, 2019, one year on, what have we done about it? We still find ourselves conveniently signing into websites through Facebook because it’s convenient and who can bother to remember their passwords right? Everything online is becoming linked, social media accounts are conveniently used to sign into other websites which gives big companies a vortex of customer data, and apparently, we’re okay with it.

Many of us heard about the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica data scandal last year where apparently Cambridge Analytica had used the Facebook user’s data to influence the 2016 US presidential elections. Accounts which had an emotional link to a candidate shown through their statuses, likes and posts could be targeted accordingly. Sure, the better you know your customer, the more you can sell and influence.

At the time, we showed annoyance and vowed to be more careful with what we share online – but do you know the extent of your data being collected?

Analysing data is nothing new, companies have been tracking customer profiles through this for a while, however we should all be aware of how we can protect our privacy, and the best way to be aware is knowing how our data is used and what exactly is used.

Social Media Mining: “The process of obtaining big data from user-generated content on social media sites and mobile apps in order to extract patterns, form conclusions about users, and act upon the information.”

Like an episode of Black Mirror, it’s safe to say your social media probably knows you even better than you know yourself, your likes and dislikes, your consumer history, places you love to visit and even how much you spend on food and clothes. It’s no coincidence when you’ve googled the newest Nike trainers, the next thing you know your Facebook and Instagram are popping up with promoted content for those exact trainers.

So how does it work? Facebook has a whole bank of data collected in many ways and there are many websites which can go even deeper into your online activity; combined with the data social media itself collects, there is A LOT of information out there about you. Here’s a list of the type of data that companies can collect through websites, social media or your device.

  • Websites and social media can track your exact location
  • Thanks to Cookies, companies can track visitors, personalise pages and allow users to stay logged in
  • Even the browser you use can be seen e.g. Chrome or Firefox
  • The exact device you log in from – iPad, Desktop, Mobile etc and sometimes even the make and model of your device
  • The movement of your mouse e.g. the amount of times you’ve scrolled up or down on a website
  • Who you are, where you have been, who you have been talking to online and your interests.
  • Signal tracking – when you enter a store it can track your walk around the store through your phone signals, which helps understand customer interest
  • Social media also registers every friend you have, even the ones deleted
  • If you log in through third party apps on Facebook such as Spotify or Uber, they can also collect additional data through your Facebook activity

Although most of these seem harmless or obvious – all it takes is for a company to sell this data, and all of this combined creates a very specific user profile that can understand a customer’s exact needs.

Unfortunately, this list isn’t even half of the types of data collected and doesn’t even fully touch on the avenues it is collected from. From Smart Meters in your home and your TV, to Pokemon Go and other apps – marketers will stop at nothing to gain as much information as possible about you in order to gain maximum profit.

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