Writer Evgeny Morozov has given thought to the way collecting personal data on the internet has changed marketing strategies. Based on our web searches, we consumers are targeted with messages that encourage us to spend more and more. (“The Mall,” by Evgeny Morozov, The New Republic, May 26, 2014. Pg. 6.)
Of course, the public knows about this strategy. Long before computers came upon the scene, retailers endeavored to track the public’s interests using coupons as a vehicle. Computers simply made the job easier. Based on my shopping habits, my grocer knows I’m not in the market for baby diapers, for example.
Still, it’s niggling to think that my interests are sold to other retailers without my permission and with no benefit to me. That same concern niggled Shawn Buckles of Norway. Fed up with Google and Facebook collecting his data and selling it for a profit, he decided to monetize himself. According to Morozov, he held a public auction agreeing to share his person data, including medical records, reading habits and favorite foods, in exchange for money. Surprisingly, 53 bidders vied for his information and the winner shelled out $480. (Ibid pg. 6)
Morozov doesn’t reveal whether or not Buckles was satisfied with the amount of money he received, but I suspect if he’d been an axe murderer or a terrorist, he might have been offered more. Fame has it price, after all.
Buckles’ creative response to internet targeting shows us we have little to fear from retailers. Consumers remain in the driver’s seat. But we must ask ourselves if we really want to build a virtual world based upon the failed economic principles of the real one. As humans, shouldn’t we project some value other than buy, buy, buy? Sure, commerce makes the world go round. But one day, when we’ve consumed ourselves and the planet to near extinction, what will we for an encore?
(Courtesy of news.bbc.co.uk)