Mind Google-ing data mining.

Mind Google-ing data mining.

This link will take you to Marsden’s article from The Independent – “Google advertising: How did it know I like hats”?   

The article about Google continues the conversation about tracking, personal data and privacy policies. The comments posted after the article (see online discussion) provide an interesting range of responses. Some discussants disclose (publicly of course) their tips for managing and protecting their privacy online. And give us useful information about how they manage tracking as they use the Internet.

It’s also valuable information for Google, and any other firms that offer online services in exchange for our personal data. Each time we share with each other online we help “co-create value” for the likes of Google, and profile ourselves in ever increasing detail.

Is anyone out there interested? Google, google’s clients or others? Well yes and no. I’m not of interest as an individual but as a participant who contributes bits to a larger mosaic of data about social preferences and activities and beliefs that is of great interest to marketers and public and private organizations. Not even my mother would be interested in my bits – data about my search patterns, interactions, preferences and views on this and that.Nor am I such a desireable consumer/target audience member ( in and of myself) to be of great interest to market research companies and their clients. But I contribute key words, photos, clicks and conduct searches, make purchases, and interact with others, This data schools up with other data and forms a part of larger whole – big data – that is of interest to marketers and firms as they aim to predict market trends by mining such data.

We may be resistant to traditional forms of market research – direct phone calls, door to door or in-store surveys – but we’re actively contributing to our own personal profiles in so many other ways in the digital era. And we often experience this process as a creative form of self- expression. We showcase ourselves and present ourselves as particular kinds of consumers; we present ourselves as exhibits, contributing bits towards a larger mosaic of data that might yield patterns or take shape in meaningful ways.

Intel’s Museum of Me embodies this brilliantly – what to some feels like a violation of their private data, as the virtual ‘museum of me’ tour displays images and words from one’s Facebook profile and ones ‘friends’, to others is an extraordinary and moving experience of affirmation and self-realization.


I’m thinking that “user friendly” technologies and interfaces presuppose the friendly user.

We participate in online communications as ‘open’ and expressive folk, friendly, not wary or guarded. And stories such as this which examine questions relating to personal data seem to echo the ‘stranger danger’ message developed for children and the vulnerable in society. That individualist right enshrined within the US constitution – freedom of expression – has found its free-est platform in and through the Internet and online communities. Like explorers stepping into a new frontier we “express” ourselves as savvy participants with discerning tastes and preferences, leaving ‘tracks’ in this frontier space, proudly building our own profiles. We seek to reveal who we are, to share and to display our know-how, to differentiate ourselves in a miriad of ways, spruiking our knowledge, interests, talents and preferences. As explorers we are not indifferent to data mining and tracking, nor ignorant of the many ways in which our activities, interactions and transactions can be tracked and analysed and acted on. We participate with a willing suspension of disbelief . We may even thrive in the process and experience this participation as affirming – feeling as if our actions, words, photos, preferences actually MATTER, and that we have a voice. It may be an algorithm that has ‘heard’ and ‘understood’ my preferences, and made a personalised online offer that is too good to resist, but hey, it still feels good that this someone knows I like hats and has reached out to me in this personalised way.


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