Data collection can affect the control of peoples lives in both the physical and online worlds. This is because people make many decisions based on information, whether or not that information is true, or the lack of information.

This can apply to the use of peoples data in cases such as filter bubbles where we only receive information that we like interacting with. An example of this would be two people searching for Egypt. The first persons results relate to the political upheavals in the country whereas the second only sees tourism information.

Another reason we make decisions is subliminal influence. Famously this was used in a 1957 movie theatre by flashing the words “Drink Coco Cola: and “Eat popcorn” during the movie. This test sparked outrage at the time and the jury is still out as to whether it works enough to be worth using. It is still used in other forms though.

  • Product placement
  • Sexual associations
  • Activism
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Trustworthy looking actors
  • Implied scarcity
  • Social insecurity
  • Implied choice
  • Association
  • And many more….

Many of these have been used for so long that they appear normal now but the internet has added extra strategies based on data collection.

 

Data collection and it’s uses

The founding President of Facebook, Sean Parker, recently said that Facebook was designed to consume as much time and conscious attention as possible by giving users a small dopamine hit every once and a while. He then added,

It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors, creators — it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.

Other Facebook studies have included,

  • Rumour cascades
  • Self censorship
  • Using friends to promote advertisements
  • Which Facebook friends are real life friends
  • Voter manipulation
  • Emotional manipulation

The result of these studies, and that they were done at all in some cases, is known because Facebook published them. They are repeated here because they offer an insight into the types of information and control that can be gained from the data collection to manipulate people without their knowledge. And Facebook is an easy target. Google is much larger and holds far more information.

If you are worried about the collection of your online data and not sure where to start then have a look at our Basic Privacy Bundle for an example of how you can increase your privacy for free. There is also a plugin especially for Facebook called Firefox Facebook Container.