For a while, I have known that both Google and Facebook have the ability to determine who I am by the websites I view or by my status updates or things I “liked” on Facebook. What was surprising to me was how much information they had collected and how similar it was to who I actually am.
Both Google and Facebook could pretty easily identify that I am a massive sports fan. The interest based on the websites I visit were about 1/3 sports related, with other interests thrown in like academics, classic rock and rap music, or TV shows and movies. I found the list of interests by website visited to be a much more accurate representation than the list of interests by what I search for which doesn’t surprise me in the least. Sure, I search for a lot of things I’m interested in, but I guess I have a general curiosity about a wide array of topics or if I’m with friends and someone brings up an unfamiliar topic, I’ll likely google it then or later, but I’m not likely to frequent those sites after I find what I’m looking for. Some of these “interests” certainly aren’t things that I’m even interested in such as punk music or paintball.
What really surprised me was how much information Facebook had about me, including my phone contacts. I’m a frequent user of the mobile Facebook app, but was unaware they were able to collect information like my contacts. I feel like that is an invasion of privacy and I guess I’m not entirely sure why that is useful to Facebook because I don’t think you can tell someone’s character or what he or she might be interested in from the contacts. I have noticed however, even before doing this assignment, that Facebook does tailor it’s ads effectively towards me. I’ve noticed a lot of ads for sporting events which certainly caters to me very well.
I’m not totally surprised by how much information these two sites have gathered, especially in lieu of the recent NSA on goings. I do think a line could be drawn, more so with Facebook’s acquisition of my phone contacts, but at the same time I certainly won’t stop using Facebook because I like to feel connected to friends and family. I just hope that information like this is only used to target certain ads in my direction and that it won’t be seen by others. I knew these sites gathered lots of info about me, but it was very interesting to see just how much information they had about me.