Big Brother is watching you

Ever get that feeling? It is pretty well understood that there are companies that make their living by watching what you are doing, what you like, what preferences you keep and what is buzzing in your immediate vicinity that is of interest to you.

It is also pretty well understood that Internet as a medium boasts of bridging the gap between the “you” and the “them” in the most effective and non-intrusive manner. In fact, let it be known that for every second that you spend in front of the browser, you are dropping a part of your identity back for someone to gain some knowledge about you. While there are tools that allow you to build up a social profile of yourself online [like Facebook and Myspace], there are others that are a lot more subtle about the manner in which they gather information about your tastes [like Youtube for visual medium, Google for almost anything, Last.Fm for music]. There are, in addition, social aggregators that build up an interest profile of your self by aggregating niche interest profiles from each of these online tools [like FriendFeed].

i have no grouse against leaving my identity traces behind for everyone to see. Otherwise, you would not see me blogging here and you would not see an aggregated list of my activities online here [via Friendfeed]. In fact, you are served content better suited to match your interest profiles and the Internet companies can show finer targeted ads for you, resulting in a win-win situation for everyone. But sometimes the sheer power of the availability of this data in someone’s hands scares me.

So why this age old ramble of privacy issues with respect to data available with companies and the chances of their misuse? Well, today i posted a comment on Facebook about how i enjoyed some chocolates the other day. Within an hour, Facebook shows me an ad asking me to become a fan of M&Ms. Scary?

I think what shocked me here was that the ad was not shown as a result of me being in a group of chocolate addicts, or me having watched and liked the movie Chocolat or me having added an application that had anything to with chocolates. It was an innocent one liner comment that resulted in that ad being rendered. Food [or cholocate] for thought?

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