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Be Careful: They Know What You're Up To Online

By Vanessa Fernandes / Log Staff Writer
On April 20, 2012

Remember the good old days before Google and Facebook when you could look up a variety of kinds of information in a library and still keep your privacy?

You could meet up with any of your friends, no matter how different you were from them, or even look through a variety of choices of an item in a store before making a purchase. To digital natives those days are long gone. The Internet has undoubtedly made our lives a lot easier, and I, as a user, appreciate that.

We can easily look up information, contact friends, and shop online. However, some are uninformed about how their web browsing on the Internet is being used.

Our online usage is being watched, and inevitably is determining what we see next on the Web.

In addition, we're also being pointed into the direction of buying items that are the most popular, rather than researching for more competitive items.

Furthermore, when utilizing search engines, the user must be aware of how much information they're putting out there.

Data is constantly being collected on users, such as what websites are most visited, what they're buying, and the information they are seeking.

Everything the user is clicking on can ultimately affect the options of information that he or she will receive.

An example of this is the term that some people are familiar with called "the filter bubble." The filter bubble is when websites sift through what we do online, therefore helping advertisers predict what the user wants.

The advertisements that users see on their web pages or search engines are put there specifically for that user because the advertisers know what the user is interested in.

Scary, huh?

The information and choices we receive are also being filtered by what some call an "echo chamber." This term has been around for ages but is now being examined because of the use of the media and the Internet presently.

The echo chamber is usually when the user's opinion or information is being reassured, and that opinion or info is being built upon or exaggerated. That is what is happening within our own spheres.

As users, we're researching information and getting back that information. The only difference is that it is exaggerated with more information on the subject. The theory of the echo chamber doesn't usually produce information on the user's site that goes against that user's opinions on the subject.

I was recently listening to "On the Media" and there was a segment called the "Echo Chamber Revisited."

During this segment, Eli Pariser talks about how he wasn't seeing some of his Facebook friends on his newsfeed.

Apparently, Facebook is only showing newsfeeds of the user's friends who are more like them. I challenge you, the reader, to take a look on your Facebook and see who is constantly on your newsfeed and who has "disappeared."

We, as consumers, are being pushed into buying things that are readily available for us to look at as well.

A question to ask is, do you go straight to the "top ten list" on the iTunes or Amazon websites? If so, you're not making full use of your right to choices.

According to a "The New York Times" article,by Nick Bilton, titled "Top Ten Lists Lead to Less Choices on the Web," "what we as consumers buy is often being determined by a website's top lists.

"Instead of flipping through the pages and scanning numerous objects to purchase, we look at the first things that are thrown at us and dismissing the rest, therefore dismissing any other choices that may be just as valuable."

In short, I'm not blaming the Internet for our lack of information about what is being collected on us as users.

It's the Internet's job to advertise to the user and give information that most readily fits the user's opinions.

If the fact that your information in choices and interests is out there happens to alarm you, I suggest you clear your Internet browser by clearing or disabling your cookies.

It's your responsibility to make sure that your privacy is being kept private, because no one will do it for you.

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