The price of free conversation

I choose to keep my online lives segmented in such a way that it becomes difficult to gather enough info to fully target me with advertising that will actually reach me, and more to attract the ads that will amuse me. I do this by slipping in random items in profiles, titles, postings, etc. The goal is to have these red herrings come back to me as adverts that I can then see the connection. While this is a seemingly innocuous hobby of mine, occasionally it happens (as so many wonderful things in life), completely by accident.

The culprit: Facebook Chat
Topic: Female Mormon Blogs
Ad: Female Mormon Blog

It was innocent enough, a friend and I were chatting on Facebook chat about how fascinating she was finding these female Mormon blogs, and my sick fascination with her being fascinated by them. This was not a full in depth conversation, we’ll say it took up 4 sentences, tops. Within about 15min, I sure enough had an ad on Facebook about Female Mormon blogs. We have grown accustomed to seeing targeted ads based on emails, surfing habits, ip address locations, etc. but what about live, real time communication?

This could easily have been going on for years, be the reason ICQ and AIM have always been free, etc, etc. who knows.

If you started to receive ads on your phone based on the texts you were sending/receiving, would you care?
If after talking about how great a nice honey baked ham would be for Thanksgiving you received a coupon from the Honey Baked Ham store, would you care?
What if after breaking up with someone, being alerted to a death in the family, or calling in sick to work, you were to receive coupons for chocolates, a call from a florist, and have a Doctor email asking if you would like to make an appt, would you care then?

We place such high standards on instant telephone commnications, yet nothing on instant textual conversations, but why? What is it about the written word that we seem to hold in less esteem than the voice of another? Think of the technology that exists with visual voicemail and what that technology could do if we were tapping everyones calls and marketing to them directly based upon their conversations.

I hear your gears moving already, you’re thinking “well data is the price we pay for free services we depend on”, and you’re right, you do pay. So let us imagine for a moment a cell phone company giving you a free phone, and severely discounted service as long as you allowed them to data mine your phone calls, would you do it? What would it take for you to give someone that control? Where do you draw the line between interpersonal private conversation and a target for data mines?

Do we even care?
Will it ever get “this bad”?
Rhode Island is neither a road, nor an island… discuss.

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~ by brandontonio on November 18, 2010.

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