Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Article: The dark side of the personalised internet

Original Article written by Andrew Keen for New Scientist - Monday 13, February 2012

JOSEPH TUROW'S invaluable The Daily You is a warning about the impact of the "Web 3.0" revolution - though he doesn't use the term - on individual freedom and privacy.

Coined by Reid Hoffman, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist and co-founder of LinkedIn, the term Web 3.0 defines our digitally networked age of "real identities generating massive amounts of data". It is via this avalanche of personal data, available through networks like Facebook, Foursquare, Google and The Huffington Post that, Turow warns, "the new advertising industry is defining your identity and your world".

It wasn't supposed to turn out like this, Turow, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, wryly notes. In the first flush of the digital revolution, optimists like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Nicholas Negroponte and Harvard University's Yochai Benkler were promising a web of "The Daily Me" in which the consumer would be empowered to "define themselves" through the democratic openness of the internet. But the bright promise of The Daily Me has been eclipsed by the dark reality of The Daily You - an online world in which we are being persistently "peeked" at and "poked" by data mining and analytics companies like Rapleaf, Next Jump, Acxiom, Daily Me and Medicx Media.

The root of the problem, Turow explains, is the disappearance of boundaries between advertising and content that shaped 20th-century media. Because it is hard to generate significant revenue through selling online banner advertising, web publishers now cosy up to advertisers by offering them access to the personal data we reveal every time we go online.

"It's a new world and we are only at the beginning," Turow writes of this creepy set-up in which the consumer, rather than being king, has become the serf of an increasingly seductive and coercive advertising industry. And it is only going to get creepier, he warns,
as television and the internet merge, and services like Google TV transform the 20th-century viewer into 21st-century data points that are bundled up and sold on to advertisers.

So what is to be done? Here, Turow is at his least convincing. "The train has already left the station," he writes, ominously, before falling back on anodyne solutions like to "teach our children well - early and often" and encouraging the US Congress to pass "Do Not Track" legislation, which limits gathering consumer data online.

No, what really needs to be done is for all of us to buy Turow's book. In guiding us through the ways in which, whether we know it or not, we are generating massive amounts of personal data online, The Daily You is required reading in today's Web 3.0 age.

Book Information
The Daily You: how the new advertising industry is defining your identity and your worth
by Joseph Turow
Published by: Yale University Press

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Also, here are links to helpful Google Chrome extensions:
- Keep my Opt-outs: Avoid getting your information gathered for personalized advertising
- Ad Block: Block ads all over the web (including Youtube, Google ads, Facebook, etc)

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