It’s kind of funny, because the field I work in (marketing) there is a strange duality when it comes to data collection. With cookies and cameras and software all watching what you do… all day… all the time… it stands to reason that there may be such a thing as “too much”.
The joke is, what search engines and companies do to see what you are doing, what you like, what your habits are, etc.; the same tactics used by a guy with a camera and a raincoat would be considered, well, stalking. You go to jail for that sort of business. Yet, we (the consumers) freely give out tons of data to big companies so that they can pitch their wares to us better. Sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming…
Buuuut the other side of me is actually pretty intrigued. Watching analytics is really fascinating! Granted, what I do is hardly intrusive in any sense; just looking at web activity on our own site (heck, I do that with my own websites (such as this one! mwahahahaha) to see what needs to be optimized). Still, I find myself sometime frustrated with the lack of data available.
Case in point; Google (our overlords, lol) makes a lot of money with Adwords. We all use these to get our little links out there and hope someone clicks them so that we can eat another day. But Google actually plays both sides. On the one hand, they sell you this oportunity to put your ads up in relevant searches and analyze the data so that you can see if you are actually doing something good and making progresses with the LOADS of money you toss at them… But on the other, they boast their ability to privately browse and search, thus rendering that whole first bit completely useless! It’s like selling missiles to one country while selling anti-missiles to the other!
But what can ya do? Not a whole lot of other options out there.
Still, I guess I’m divided when it comes to this data jive. As someone in marketing and owner of 2 websites, analysis of what visitors do and if your advertising is actually workings is absolutely essential for the operation of your business. But as soon as a big company like Facebook or Microsoft or EA starts watching what I do on every website, what I buy, where I go, and even (looking at you Xbox Three) peering into my living room and listening to my conversations; that is when I have a major problem with the system.
I suppose at the end of the day, we’re talking about two polar opposite sides of the same line. Too little data and you fly blind and will probably go out of business. Too radical and you might as well pay a guy to follow someone around at night and look through their sock drawer. I just wonder what that middle point is. Where that dividing line is drawn when insight becomes intrusion. And unfortunately, when some very large company steps out of bounds, it’s going to be us little guys wearing the white hats that will get caught in the backlash.