“If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold”. This is a very true statement in today’s world, and I think it is a reality that some of us choose to accept. Others are feel uncomfortable with the idea, but feel that it is inevitable.
I do not think that it is unethical for companies to gather out information and sell it as a product. It makes it possible for the companies that make our favorite free apps to make money and keep working on those apps. I personally enjoy not paying for apps, so I have no problem with companies collecting my information in order to maintain this. I realize that there are downsides to this as well as some upsides. For example, I frequently get ads on my Instagram feed. And a lot of times, they are things that I might not have otherwise found. When I was searching for a birthday gift for my boyfriend, I got an ad for something called “Pup Socks”, which was where you could submit a picture of your dog and it would print the picture on a pair of socks. I ended up getting my boyfriend two pairs (one with each of his dogs on it) and he freaked out and absolutely loved them. I would have never thought to have get him this if I had never seen this ad.
The other side of this is that sometimes these ads can cause some issues. Take the situation with Target and the pregnancy scandal. They had figured out how to predict if a woman was in her second trimester, as well as certain products that women tended to purchase around this time in her pregnancy. So, they decided to send ads in the mail to these women for these pregnancy-related products. But, when a secretly pregnant high schooler’s father found these ads, a family secret was revealed too soon. On the one side, I felt horrible for that family. But in reality, the mathematician inside of me was amazed at how accurate they were able to be. Most people might find some of these targeted ads creepy, but it makes me excited at the power of predictive analytics. I would love for someone to suggest things for me to buy, even if its before I even knew I needed it myself!
I definitely find online advertising tolerable. I even welcome and encourage it. But, if you really want privacy, I do not think that it is impossible to achieve. Ad blocking tools are available for download. And, you could easily check your privacy settings on all of your social media accounts to see what information is being collected. Anyone that cares that much about keeping their information private can take these extra measures, and I encourage them to. I, on the other hand, will enjoy getting new gift ideas, finding new deals and sales, and maybe even new products that I had never even considered before.