We are not data

I posted a link to an article about Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads, so it can snoop on people’s opinions about books, and market products to them they think they might buy.  This is thanks to data mining software, which can pick up certain key words.

The argument in the article is for the ability to talk about something without companies like Amazon listening in so they can sell you stuff.  Isn’t it possible to do anything these days without someone, somewhere, picking up information about us?  It does seem to bring us down to the level of being simply data.

It’s a symptom of the changes brought about by the internet.  You used to sell things to people by putting up a big poster, or sending out junk mail, for instance.  Pretty random.

So in theory we won’t see irrelevant advertising any more.  That almost sounds utopian, except it doesn’t mean we’ll see less advertising, and it feels intrusive.

But it’s the way marketing is going.  Publishers are getting readers’ emails so they can send information about books that might be of interest.  Readers sign up voluntarily – or, at least, interact with a website and surrender their email address, perhaps in exchange for exclusive content.  We have to register to see more pages of online newspapers and magazines.  Broadcasters and film distributors are doing likewise.

But registering voluntarily and being ‘overheard’ on sites that used to be authentic forums are two different things.  Marketing’s got personal.


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