The internet. It’s a playground for you to browse cat pictures, buy your third cousin’s second child’s first birthday present or watch a hilarious clip of last week’s Bob’s Burgers episode. But did you know that there are tiny files on your computer keeping track of your every move and interest? Someone wants this information, and it’s not just the government.
Almost every website you visit places a file on your computer to keep track of your information. According to an article by Julia Angwen on the Wallstreet Journal titled “The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets,” the most intrusive of these files work by downloading a file onto your computer and assigning it a unique ID. When you return to that website at a later date, you will have a plethora of information for them to use in their advertisements. But how does this compare to government surveillance?
Constantly, conversations about the N.S.A (National Security Agency) spark up on the internet. The N.S.A has admitted to spying on users through their browsing data, phone conversations and instant messaging convos. According to Joshua Kopstein from The Verge in his article, “Everything You Need to Know About PRISM,” The N.S.A uses a device called PRISM to collect this information. Among your conversations and much like data mining, your interests are also collected.
But what makes corporate data mining different from government surveillance? For starters, the intention on the two is completely different. The N.S.A doesn’t want to sell you a product; they want to catch the bad guys before they have the chance to be the bad guys. And best of all, it’s all protected under the conveniently named “Protect America Act”. But don’t worry, they aren’t going to bother coming after you for admitting you enjoy jaywalking across the street.
Corporate Data Miners do, however, make a living off of your information. They want you to keep browsing websites in order for them to gain more information and advertise more accurately towards your demographic. If they were to persecute you for any of the websites you visit, they would lose customer. Your every click is their dollar and if they will earn more if they can find a way for their ads to appeal to you.
In the end, Corporate Data Mining and Internet Surveillance simply track your progress using similar methods (except for PRISM) for different reasons. What they are doing is morally ambiguous, but is it harmful? After all, their goals are only to make a living and to, arguably, keep you alive.