Why You Should Do Fake Searches
I am fairly resigned to the fact that data is collected about me every time I use the internet, make a purchase, or walk down the street. Even if we are resigned, we should still talk about this topic and understand the choices we’re making as we trade off privacy for convenience.
I loved a repeat Note to Self episode this summer (that I missed the first time around) featuring the author of Data and Goliath, Bruce Schneier. If you missed it, too, you should set aside 19 minutes today to listen.
Even though he claims that no one reads the Terms of Service (uh, I read the Terms of Service), I really liked some of Schneier’s ideas; namely, that we should all do fake searches from time to time which will become part of the data files information firms are keeping on individuals. So these firms will know what you do like, but they also will be confused because in between real searches for real items or articles, there will be fake searches for items you don’t want or ideas you don’t support.
After the episode, I went and Googled shoes that I not only didn’t want but would never wear. Sure enough, Facebook started showing me ads for those shoes as well as others like it. I laughed and laughed, feeling like Vizzini in The Princess Bride, though if I take a step back and truly consider the situation, Facebook is probably more akin to the man in the mask, which means… checkmate.
But still, it is interesting to think that we can control how much the firm really knows. That we have some power in this equation. Yes, possibly more trouble than its worth, but I’ll still throw a fake search in from time to time. Now excuse me, I need to go look up hair care products for blondes.
Does it bother you to think about how much information is collected about you on a yearly basis, or do you not really care if someone has assembled a list of facts about you?