Category Archives: Online Media & Digital Culture

How my blog takes advantage of you

Reading these blogs exposes you to covert monitoring and Big Data collection for profit. But you probably already knew that.

The cost of sharing our thoughts in this commercial environment is asking you* to allow this tracking. This freemium blog is not really free. I must partner with others who silently and invisibly monitor your activities here. They aggregate this data with other Big Data to commodify our digital intercourse

blog tracking lgThis Lightbeam screenshot shows how many third party sites run in the background while I type here and you read this.

You are not a passive reader/viewer here, you are an active laborer in the production of a lucrative commodity for multiple corporate entities. You will not, however, stand any chance of sharing in that lucre.

You agree to give all profits from your activity here over to those Data Brokers, who store, aggregate, package and sell that data for incredible profit (see this 2014 ProPublica summary).

The Federal Trade Commission is still trying to catch up with this new industry. The May 2014 FTC report, Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability, concluded that

“In the nearly two decades since the Commission first began to examine data brokers, little progress has been made to improve transparency and choice. This report attempts to provide a window into data brokers’ collection and use of consumer information and makes recommendations to enhance transparency and consumer control” (p. 57).

FTC Commissioner Julie Brill added the following in her concurring statement:

“Data brokers gather massive amounts of data, from online and offline sources, and combine them into profiles about each of us. Data brokers examine each piece of information they hold about us — where we live, where we work and how much we earn, our race, our daily activities (both off line and online), our interests, our health conditions and our overall financial status — to create a narrative about our past, present and even our future lives….

Consumers are largely unaware of the existence of data brokers and the detailed, sensitive information contained in their profiles. As a result, to the extent that some data brokers offer consumers the ability to access and correct or suppress their data, consumers don’t know how to exercise these rights, rendering such rights illusory. Furthermore…data may change hands many times along the way from source to data product. As a result, even if consumers are aware of the existence of data brokers and their profiles, and have the ability to access the data about them, it is challenging, if not effectively impossible, for them to identify the sources of data and who else has seen it. As the Commission outlines in today’s report, many data broker practices fall outside of any specific laws that require the industry to be transparent, provide consumers with access to data, or take steps to ensure that the data that they maintain is accurate” (p. C-3).

In a similar vein, Ashkan Soltani, offers his Pulitzer-recognized opinion on all this monitoring and commodification of your experience:

“Please note: This site unfortunately features some Quantserve/Wordpress tracking widgets that can’t be disabled. Sorry! I recommend blocking third-party cookies, using a privacy-friendly browser, or installing privacy add-ons like Disconnect or Ghostery.”

Our surveillance  of your visit is designed to more effectively turn your virtual (online) self into a real commodity for sale and resale in perpetuity. And we thank you for your willing assistance and pliant acquiescence.

* I want to personally thank all my readers for allowing this to continue. Without you, and I mean both of you, my efforts here would be for naught.