Of all the threats that the information age has brought up, privacy has always seemed like the least big deal. I’m sure a lot of that is because I lead a boring life. People can spy on me all they want and they’re unlikely to uncover anything embarrassing. I mean, I do trip and fall from time to time, so if they like slapstick, they might get an occasional chuckle, but I think they’d mostly be bored.
It’s not that privacy isn’t important. I understand that everyone is different, and part of that is everyone has a different level of tolerance when it comes to privacy. I do think that every individual should be able to control how much access governments and corporations have in their private lives. For me, personally, though, Twitter is welcome to my personal data if it means I don’t have to pay to use Twitter. And if targeted ads let me read your content for free, target away. I don’t mind that Big Brother is watching. What I find frustrating is how bad he is at doing anything with the information.
A little over a month ago, I had an eye exam. My prescription actually changed a little, for the first time since I got glasses. Since my insurance covers a new pair every year, and it had been a while, I decided to get a new pair of glasses. I went to Warby Parker, found a pair I liked, and ordered them. They were paid for, the insurance was processed, and I’m wearing them right now. Yet, every time I go online now, I get a ton of ads for eyeglasses. What good are those ads doing anyone? I’m no longer in the market for glasses, I already bought them, so it’s not helping me to know where I can buy glasses. It’s not helping the retailers to show their ads to people who don’t care. Big Brother was watching, but apparently not paying close attention.
The streaming music and video services are always bragging about their recommendations, but I find the recommendations to be a complete waste. Why compile all this information on my entertainment consumption if the best you can do is say, “You watched The Mandalorian, now watch The Clone Wars?” I already watched The Clone Wars, on your service. Come on. What a waste of an algorithm.
Amazon might be the worst at it. If I buy an album on vinyl, I’m guaranteeing weeks of ads for the same record on CD. Not even another album by the same artist or the deluxe edition with bonus tracks. The same exact album. My daughter is nine. I bought baby supplies on Amazon. They seem to think I still have an infant in my house. I know it’s just code, but someone should tell it that kids grow and change. Do better Amazon.
I remember a few years ago there was all this hand-wringing about Target (I think it was Target. I might have been CVS or Walmart or Amazon. They’re all the same.) knowing that a woman was pregnant before she knew. I was jealous. I can’t even imagine getting a useful ad or coupon or recommendation. It seems like it would be nice. I’m freely giving you my information. I would like it if you actually did something with it.