Ian is Not a Three-Letter Acronym

 … but he might be a four-letter word

Guess what? Stuff you look at on the internet is being tracked and recorded (insert gasp).

It’s no surprise– big brother has his eye on you. Google, Facebook, Apple and Android are seen as some of the main culprits… but who else is stealing a peek through the digital keyhole?

Pretty much everyone.

To us web-savvy, if it’s not actually known – then it’s at least assumed, that the amount of time we view a website, the links we click on, the searches we make and the things that we interact with, all allow sites to collect data, and create a ‘profile’ of us that links to our web browser. And that this is happening practically the whole time we are online.

How Big Data Gets Gathered

Behind the bright curtain of my web browser, my data profile is evolving, growing off the information I feed it (it’s particularly fond of cookies). I’ve named it Ian. I like Ian – but Ian can be a sassy little bastard. He allows specific advertisers to position their online ads to me, and to those who show a greater level of interest for the products and services being offered. Ian has a fetish. Ian’s into behavioral targeting.

Ian’s interest in me doesn’t start and end with my browser history. My location – and therefore where I travel – is usually under Ian’s close inspection. Like a possessive boyfriend, Ian doesn’t trust me – he wants to know where I am at all times. WiFi location data, along with GPS, take Ian’s tracking and monitoring to a whole new level.

It is now very possible for Ian to target me in specific locations and discern with greater clarity what I am doing at any time of the day. All with very little transparency as to who Ian intends to share this personal information with. For all I know Ian could be half-cut at a bar right now, trading my personal information for another West Coast Cooler.

Data Gets Used for Specific Buyer Groups

Ian’s ability to market so specifically to me is why, generally speaking, advertising using the internet trumps most other forms of media (including television) due to the fact that data is instantly accessible, and can be analysed to test and optimise the impact of campaigns.

Ian may be an invasive, mistrusting, sneaky little bugger – but you can’t argue… he’s good at his job. He’s very good at his job – and he’s got reams of data and sales to prove it.

Usually I just say ‘yeah, whatever Ian. You want to know if I like anchovies on my Margarita? Oh, you’re interested in my choice of lawn care? Go for it mate. Whatever does it for you’.

But Ian is unfaithful. Ian is a digital slut. He’s sharing my stuff with anyone who rubs him the right way.

F***ing Ian.

A lot of the time the internet is not a free space. Ian uses it to accumulate information about me, you and everyone in between. He’s all above board too. Australian online privacy laws are still shifting as the technology is constantly evolving.

Should I Stop the Data Collection?

He’s terrible at hide and seek. He just sits there with his hands over his eyes and assumes I can’t see him, except I can see him. I just downloaded Lightbeam (a plug-in for Firefox), and now the tables have turned – Lightbeam is tracking Ian. I’ve only visited 20 sites since installing this little gem… yet I have connected with over 155.

It’s all the usual suspects; Google maps, Google analytics, and Google tag services – but Ian never was one for moderation… there’s an awfully long list of completely foreign names that Ian has been ‘friendly’ with.

Ian is not unstoppable. If he takes his fetish too far – I can always slap up a ‘no junk mail’ sticker and stop his gossiping no problem.

We know who you are and where you are coming from …And we can show you what matters to you ...
Yahoo CEO Terry

There are many ways to protect your privacy online, it’s not hard to turn off cookies and prevent websites from collecting your data or serving you adverts… but truth be known – I like junk mail. I like knowing about Aldi’s $20 6-litre Esky or knowing when Target’s toy sale will end. So long as I keep in mind that I can’t make him ‘untell’ his friends about me. Once Ian has spilled my details, they’re spilled.

As for me – I’m going to keep Ian around for now. In some ways, he makes me feel like I’m in a constant state of digital undress. In other ways I feel he’s got me figured out in a way no other entity has – delivering me ads of specific interest to me, which I much prefer to the banal crap I get served elsewhere.

Ian knows me a little too well to just turn him off. It’s a love/hate relationship.

P.S. Ian, he says hi.

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