“Rather than share your location, Foursquare wants to suggest one,” reports the New York Times. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/07/technology/in-app-overhaul-foursquare-shifts-focus-to-recommendations.html). An overhaul of the Foursquare app could see it turn it into a recommendation service that could rival sites such as Yelp.
For many it’s a fantastic way to use location-based services. But for some it highlights the growing impact personalisation can have. In short: How personalised can things become before there is a privacy backlash?
It’s a debate that has already provoked some good points on this forum. “When does personalisation become intrusive?,” asked Nigel Cliffe. “Personalisation is a double-edged sword: We are likely to have a more ‘honed’ response to our search or communication [but] it begins to narrow the field of results as the algorithm begins to *think* it knows better than us.”
What concerned some forum members was the degree with which web-based ads and services can be targeted. Is it only based on declared information, or can sites trawl online discussions to pick up potential ‘leads’?
“I shouldn’t think the majority would want email ads personalised for an embarrassing medical condition cropping up while they sip a coffee at a public café,” said Malcolm McKinnon. “Personalisation becomes intrusive when people see, say, or write the wrong thing about you at the wrong time.”
Oli Rhys is more pragmatic: “We still live in a world were we think everyone sees the same ads. The internet is not TV. You need to get used to the idea that you are the result of a criteria matching algorithm linked to a cookie.” He thinks people’s worries are unfounded. “While it is technically possible to cross reference all this cookie information and build a personal profile to identify you – it’s far too much trouble!”
Or is it? Malcolm McKinnon said Facebook is already offering highly targeted ads. He gave the example: “You can target young males between 18 and 35 in the Los Angeles area, on their birthday, with cooking related terms in their click stream, who are in or have graduated from UCLA, who have “Liked” Bill Gates or who have the “Microsoft Alumni” application installed on their profile.”
He even gave the link! http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=203882222982239.
So is it okay – even desirable – for businesses to collect and store data about an individual so they are better able to promote relevant goods and services to them? Yes, said Fred Held. “As long as the organisation is truly not sharing the personalised data, has a very high security program against intrusion and allows the user to define the level of data sharing, I am ok with it,” he said.
But Oli Rhys wasn’t convinced. “Privacy is affected when you are no longer in control of your information,” he said. So is there a solution? Nigel Cliffe thinks there is: ”If we are given the option each time we search as to whether we would like our prior profile taken into account, then we can choose to include this option or not.”
Do you have concerns over personalisation? Are you happy to allow internet-based services to be highly targeted to your needs and wants or are you worried that by revealing too much about your likes and tastes you are forfeiting and claim to privacy?
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