Monday, November 5, 2012

They Know Me Too Well

Have you ever noticed how truly creepy Facebook is? Apart from the fact that people virtually anywhere can stalk you, Facebook now seems to be advertising my page with things that are surprisingly very relevant to me. This past week I have been keeping track of advertisements that have been applicable to me on Facebook, and it seems as if they have found some way to keep track of the websites I visit outside of Facebook! Creepy.
             Since I thought this was so creepy, I took pictures of the advertisements to show in this blog. Let me give you some examples. First of all, about two weeks ago I purchased fall boots online. Now, the sidebars of my Facebook page (and even other websites I go to for homework help) are flooded with advertisements about buying new boots. Next, (as much as I am embarrassed to admit this) I look at engagement rings every once in a while to see what I like. About a week after visiting the Kay Jeweler website, advertisements about selecting an engagement ring appear. Finally, this last instance seems most creepy to me. As some may remember, my first blog entry was about my obsession with Nikes. Also, I love SpongeBob SquarePants, and I even dressed up as him for the Ollies Follies Variety Show. Facebook is now popping up ads on a weekly basis for me to buy SpongeBob Nikes! How do they know all of this about me?! How are they getting this information?

             I decided to do a little research to figure out what the heck was going on. I went to check out Facebook’s privacy settings, specifically the section about how they use my information to advertise. Here’s the first thing that I found:


            Upon digging a little further, I found that Facebook uses the pages I “like” and information I share on Facebook, such as my location and gender, to pick ads that are “right for me”. Also, Facebook personalizes ads for me by using information from third parties, such as the shoe store I purchased by boots from. This page even gives me tips about how to impact the ads I see by keeping the pages I “like” up to date or clicking on ads that I like to see more ads like it. If you want to check it out for yourself, here is the link:

            Maybe I am just a tad old fashioned, but this is all so creepy to me! I am not okay with the way they join my information from my Facebook to information from other places to market to me. It is not so much that I don’t want to be marketed to; my main issue is that somehow multiple different companies are linking information of mine from multiple, unrelated places. Who else is doing this to me besides the marketing business? It is my fear that someone out there could unite all sorts of information from my Facebook, my shopping history, and my location to use against me in ways I could never protect myself against.

            Since the ideas of privacy and having certain personal rights are more modern principles, I have begun to wonder what the Bible says about it. Of course, there is the idea that our service to God should be done in secret so that the focus stays on God and doesn’t become about us (But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. -Matthew 6:3-4). Another biblical scenario that crosses my mind is when Moses went to the Holy of Holy’s to meet with God in private. The temple itself was a very private place and those who went in when they were not supposed to were even killed. There is even a commandment against stealing, specifically another’s private property. It is not outside the character of God to desire privacy and to keep certain aspects of Himself hidden.

But is this too extreme? Can the concept of lumping together private information to create advertisements be categorized as “stealing”? Since I did put my information on Facebook in the first place, does that mean it is okay for outside parties to use it as they wish? I don’t really know the answers to these questions, but maybe the best solution is that no matter what, we need to respect others and try not to harm them. After all, that is why God gave us the Ten Commandments in the first place, so that we could live harmoniously with each other while serving and pleasing Him.  So in a world where it is really hard to stay anonymous (especially to advertising companies), maybe the best policy is to respect others by not using information against them and respecting yourself by not dishing out person information like it’s candy, even on Facebook.

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