What’s Your Number?

We spent a fair amount of time in our last discussion on the 3 models of outsider journalism and the one model that stuck with me was algorithmic journalism. As we discussed, the new era of the web has introduced many changes to journalism and the way we use the web, some positive, some negative depending on one’s outlook. We learned about algorithmic journalism and how like the others, it requires the active involvement of a group of people but what’s most interesting is how the actions of these people on the web can produce an algorithm specific to their journalistic taste.

This notion of an algorithmic function helping determine a person’s unique profile is something that immediately scared me; that there are software competent enough to decipher what our interests are simply by following our online activity. My question is, is this beneficial to us or is it too invasive? Is this breaching some kind of privacy that we may not appreciate in the future?

In this week’s podcast of On The Media we heard about the use of algorithmic functions to gauge the terrorist risk of someone browsing the web. We heard how these calculations can be misconstrued because a set of numbers can not correctly calculate the mentality of an individual mad enough to commit these kinds of crime. So when is this information beneficial to anyone?

Marketing companies can benefit from the information gathered on people’s clicks because it gives their clients a sense of what their target audience is interested in. Collecting your data for marketers is easy via the web because agreeing to a site’s terms and conditions usually intails allowing this site to share your info with a third party, but who really reads the fine print?

Most recently I began to wonder how sites like Facebook and Tinder might use our info. To make a Tinder account you first must have a Facebook, a site which people personalize with very specific information about themselves; once on tinder you can then “match” with people you find attractive or compatible, so what happens with this info? What does a “match” signify algorithmically for marketers? For many companies this information can be used to create products for couples fitting specific demographics or products to fit a niche in the couples/dating market.

In my quest to find what exactly Tinder and Facebook do with our info I was only able to reach their privacy policies, which in reality have very little to do with privacy because they ultimately have the right to “collect information” unique to our profile. What do you think your number says about you? Do you feel comfortable with companies using this number?

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– Yanilis Checo

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