Have you ever wondered how, after you have searched online for that specific brand of cat food for your fussy cat just once, advertisements from that brand seem to follow you literally everywhere? Or how a quick search for gyms in your area prompts every web page or app to subconsciously influence you towards a healthier lifestyle, with more stress being laid on exercise and fitness than you’ve ever considered?
Welcome to the world of personalised marketing, where valuable information about you is being extracted real-time from your online presence – including location, food orders, website visits, shopping habits, and so on. Data mining is being continuously employed by companies trying to influence even the tiniest of your daily decisions through a multitude of methods – ranging from low-level browser cookie extraction to tracking your mailing lists and social media interactions.
Even something as mundane as joining a rewards program at your local department or grocery store enables the firm to gain a complete understanding of your shopping habits. They even know exactly what time of the year you’re most likely to splurge – chances are, lucrative discounts will start popping up around then. Personal information is a precious commodity being bought and sold today – by corporates and other interested parties for their own gains – and most often without your knowledge. It is alleged that they are even affecting your political decisions through targeted ad-campaigns.
In this connected world, shielding yourself completely from highly sophisticated data mining tools seems rather unlikely. However, conscious efforts to protect tracking through your social media profiles and cookies – often by using third-party security software – can limit the extent of data mined, thereby ensuring partial control.