If you’ve watched “The Matrix“, you’re probably familiar with those “Glitches” in the Matrix – these deja-vu-moments when “they” changed something to the Matrix. I often have these moments (not actual Deja Vu’s, but these Glitches) when using services of popular Cloud Players like Google, Facebook and Amazon – these “WTF” moments, when they do something unexpected that grants you a glimpse on what’s going on in their backends and apparently heads.
I avoided Instagram for like forever – until a few days ago when I decided to give it a shot, at least for media consumption. Additionally, the Facebook App presented me with a Full-Screen Ad for Instagram that I just couldn’t resist. After installing the App and (hmmm, just so convenient) logging in with my Facebook Account, Instagram did what pretty much any modern Social Networking App does: drown me in recommendations who to follow.
Expected that. What I didn’t expect (at least not actively, but it was to be expected thinking about it afterwards) was who Facebook actually recommends for following. I assumed it lists my current Facebook-Friends with an active Instagram Account, but WAIT! There’s more!
- People I disconnected with years ago
- People I have never had as Friends on Facebook but only as a Contact (cell-number) in WhatsApp
- People whose youtube videos I might have watched in the past
So far, so good. Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram are one big happy family so seeing my WhatsApp contacts in Instragram shouldn’t be a big issue, right?
Thing is, from the point of view of someone who knows what’s technically possible, I of course know that the three services exchange their data. Why wouldn’t they? What rings my bells is the fact, that the non-technical End-User usually doesn’t know this or doesn’t care about this – but, nevertheless, gets presented with loads of contacts from multiple sources without even knowing about why they are listed there. Must be a moment of magic – “Nice, Instagram is so awesome and caring, it also knows this one guy from eBay I WhatsApped with last year over the shipping costs for this tech-thingy that was too expensive on Amazon.”
Of course I didn’t WhatsApp with anybody over shipping costs – but you get the idea. This is one of these glitches in the Matrix, that, again, shows the power of these networks and what they know about us. Nothing serious actually, but scary.
Way more serious are the side-effects of Googling a product or looking for it on Amazon. Every once in a while I’m looking for very specific things and I’m looking for them exactly one time, not on a regular basis. I sometimes do this on Amazon directly, sometimes via Google – sometimes I only write an E-Mail to myself so I remember to look for something later.
And then, while scrolling down my Facebook Newsfeed, there are these “Recommended Pages” or the blank Advertisements on the left/right. And guess what, more often than not it shows me Advertisements for stuff I was googling/amazoning a few days ago – or for stuff that was mentioned in an E-Mail (I’m using Gmail).
Basically, I’m not talking about anything new or special here, but want to encourage you to look out for this stuff and act on it. Be careful when using Cloud Services, they probably know more about you (at least they can keep more in memory than you do) than you do yourself. They profile you. They target you. It’s no news, but:
If the product is free, you are the product
Next week we have a regional election. Facebook being cool, Politicians are using it to target their audience. Interesting fact is that we have about 10 different parties and candidates for several positions to elect – but I always see the same 2 parties and related politicians in my Newsfeed and Ad-Section. Both with a comparable political statement that is matching some of my political views. Again: I’m only seeing 2 of them. No other options if I’m not actively searching for them. I don’t feel influence at all Boiz!
Just be aware of it and be careful with what you share and what personal information you provide within these networks and services. And you need to be aware of the fact that these services never forget. Removing information just makes it publicly invisible, but they for sure still know what you did in Summer 1999 if you braged about it once and deleted it afterwards.
When using any free Cloud Service, our data becomes a currency that we can exchange for exciting and convenient stuff – moving us People of the Internet closer to what Humans are in The Matrix: a source of power with no control over their assets in the digital world. You’re targeted based on your profile to influence what you like, buy, elect and who you hate. They keep feeding you what fits your personality best and learn from your actions and reactions to, again, feed you with your own dogfood. This way, you’re streamlined and easy to influence.