Readings 6: Suggestions, Recommendations, and Dataveillance

Connected, everything is now connected, we are now all connected. From social networking, to navigational systems, to cell phones, to television. Everything is tracked, recorded, and connected. This is a very scary realization to most people. This weeks articles deal with the topic of algorithms culture and the lack of privacy on the internet.

The definition of algorithm is a step-by-step procedure for calculations. Algorithms are used for calculation, data processing, and automated reasoning.

Examples of websites that use algorithms are,, and Match and eHarmony are both dating websites that use algorithms to find similarities between customers and pair them with matches based on their likes and dislikes. does the same thing but for finding roommates at different colleges. In the article, Hitting It off, Thanks To Algorithms of Love, the author John Tierney, brings up a valid point. Humans base a lot of their decisions on feelings and emotions. Using online dating sites to find love could work, and there is proof that it does, but sometimes it doesn’t. Using Algorithms to find love could work because it may spark interest based on the similarities between two people but after two years are you going to be bored? That’s the question Mr. Tierney brings to our attention. If two people are too much alike, will those people eventually get bored with one another?

There are many pros to using algorithms to make matches. Because we do make a lot of impulse decisions as humans, they aren’t always the right decisions for us to make. I always tell my friends “numbers don’t lie.” For example if you are torn about a decision or a relationship, make a pro and cons list. Which ever one has more points, go with it. I personally think that online dating and roommate sites work, but I know a lot of people are hesitant. I think a lot of good could come from them. Humans relate well with others that have the same interests and passions as one another. I wish I knew about URoomSurf when I was a freshman in college. It could have saved me a room change.

Now onto the topic of privacy (or lack there of)…

How much is TOO much? I am all for companies suggesting other products for me to buy because I love to shop, but how they do it and how often they do it is where the problem lies.  Let’s begin with Amazon.  I am not sure if I am more creeped out by amazon or less creeped out because they actually have other people track and email customers different suggestions. So I feel as if its nicer and more personal because another person is actually making a suggestion but then the other side of that, is that an actual person is watching your purchasing and spending habits.  Is that an invasion of privacy?

In, Retargeting Ads Follow Surfers to Other Sites, they tell the story about Julie Matin and her “stalking shoes”. Julie was just browsing online one day and clicked on a pair of shoes. She thought they were cute and wanted to buy them but restrained herself because she thought she didn’t really need them. Then all of a sudden, every web page she visited, the shoes were in an advertisement. They followed her to every web address she went to. She felt a little creeped out after a while. It was like a sales woman who just would not leave her alone. If a sales woman in a department store stalked a customer throughout the store it would cause some sort of law suit and become news on the five o’clock news,  but when its an advertisement online, it doesn’t break any laws?

I really do think that advertisements on the internet work. They are clever and they are subtle. Most people, including myself,  had no idea about tracking cookies. I thought that it was just a coincidence that the products I was interested in were sometimes in an advertisement on a web page that I was visiting. Part of me is all for it, because sometimes you get recommendations for products that you have no idea about or that you could really use. However, I think they are taking it a little too far. My thoughts on the matter is that I think they should continue to use the algorithms to calculate what we might purchase next, but the advertisements should stay on that one website. It should not be allowed to follow you to another webpage. Its becoming a little much and a little overwhelming. They need to keep the advertisements on the websites that the products deal with. There needs to be some sort of boundaries. If they don’t make boundaries now then in the future we will have absolutely no privacy at all, and there will be nothing we could do about it!

The information that bothered me the most in this weeks assignment was in the video Hot On Your Trail. I had no idea that every move you make is being recorded. We think, and we have become comfortable with the idea of being tracked online but that is not the only case. Now we are being tracked everywhere we go.  If your phone has a navigation system on it i.e. google maps, they can tell your every move that you make. Not only could they track where you go but they know the exact store and what you buy. Then they use that information to create more ads targeted for you based on that purchase. My mind was blown away watching that short video. Nothing could be kept a secret anymore. It’s some what frightening knowing that your information and  the history of yourself is being stored somewhere. Who has access to this information? Why do they need to know this information? What if the information ended up in the wrong hands? How do they decide who gets access to this information? Just a few important questions to think about.

In the video clip from Tom Cruises movie Minority Report Tom’s character John Anderton eyes are being scanned to recognize that it is John Anderton. Then the advertisements are made to be directed to him. It seemed so far-fetched when I first saw the movie in 2002 but somehow I feel like that make believe world is not too far away from becoming our world.  Artifacts From the Future:Dating Sites in 2020 asks “What will our world look like in 10, 20 or 100 years?” I thought that was a great question. I think we are going to still look similar to how we look now. We will probably dress the same, have our own individual styles but we will have no privacy. I think that no matter where we go we will have to scan our fingertips to open doors, or unlock our cars. This way the government will be able to know who was in what building and at what time. The only positive thing that could come from living like with this type of technology ruling our lives is it could help find criminals and maybe stop criminals from committing crimes. They won’t be able to get away with bad behavior anymore. They won’t be able to hide because someone will always be watching. However, having someone know your every move is quite uncomfortable and invasive.

A cool website that everyone should check out is ‘What Should You Read Next?’ It is a simple concept and easy website to navigate. All you need to do is type in a book that you recently read and liked and it will suggest other books you will like based off of key words. I typed in, The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, and a list of books came up with the key words, love stories, american, fiction etc. It’s really neat and a very useful website!





Some Questions to Think About:

What do you think about tracking cookies?

How do you feel about dating websites?

Your personal information being stored… Who sees it? What do they use it for? What if it ends up in the wrong hands? Where does it go? How is it protected?

In what kind of world will our children grow up in?

Behavioral Targeting: Is it invasive or helpful?








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