Big Brother is watching, whether you like it or not. Every second you spend surfing the web or updating your status or interacting with an app is information gathered. The sites, apps and services you use on the web, whether you access it via a computer, a tablet, or a smart phone, are using every tool at their disposal to learn as much about you as possible.
Why do they care, though?
That information tells them who their customers are and what their customers are doing. It allows them to draw conclusions about their targeted audience and about their own product, about what’s working and what’s not, and, most importantly, what you want and how they can be the ones to sell it to you.
Apsalar is a start-up that helps developers figure out exactly that. The company specializes in mobile-specific data analytics, a field of data that’s become more important than ever and that’s probably only going to keep growing. Basically, they help developers find ways of putting the right ads, content or notifications in front of the right eyes. Such targeted promotions might look like a discount on a virtual good the user appeared to be thinking about purchasing, or perhaps an ad for a new game to a user who hasn’t returned to the original game in some time.
This kind of customer-specific marketing isn’t new; other companies have been doing it for years without much complaint. Look at Amazon. If you have an Amazon account, and you spend a little time browsing the site in search of a digital camera, the Amazon.com home page will alter to suggest related items you may be interested in. Chances are, you will also soon receive an e-mail from Amazon with recommended alternatives, or letting you know about a new discount on the initial item.
Even services like Netflix and Hulu put a lot of effort into targeted marketing: they track the programs you watch and rent, and then they make recommendations based on your viewing habits.
The biggest difference is that people are generally aware that these sites are gathering information about them. They’re logged in and have therefore consented, for the most part, to this process. I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll admit that I actually appreciate the recommendations and offers made by those sites. As far as I’m concerned, as long as my information is secure and not being sold off to some other entity without my knowledge or consent.
I’ll certainly concede that there is an inherent dark side to the collection and utilization of all this private information, but I’m also inclined to see the good that could come out of it if it’s done properly: with minimal inconvenience to the user and with no risk to the user’s private information. I’m certain the latter is not the norm right now, but I think it could be. If those conditions—convenience and privacy—were met, would you be more accepting of companies tracking you like this? Would you still rather opt out of tracking altogether? Is there anything that would convince you to allow companies to monitor your behavior like that?