Private life dramas

| June 22, 2021

We talk about personal privacy as if it is a sacred right which has to be protected. Most of the people I know have little interest in which organisations access their personal territory.

We are aware, and accept that our movements are recorded on CCTV in the streets, supermarkets and elsewhere. We know our personal data is being kept by flybys, Twitter, Messenger and Google as well as all the data we put out on to the cloud.

Hopefully, most people take a reasonable amount of care when downloading information from the internet by cross-checking. I don’t worry about what is known about me (except my banking and health details) mainly because I don’t think anyone would be particularly interested.

However, I understand that some people do have things they want to hide. We all make mistakes which we are ashamed of, sometimes very ashamed of and I can understand that we don’t want them put in the public domain. However, if we think back to the days when humans lived in small communities, and even now in country towns in Australia, then everyone knows the foibles of everyone else. Life goes on.

Usually everyone was accepted for what they were and treated accordingly. As a species we have to get along with our neighbours whether we agree with their points of view or not. If everyone was perfectly integrated with everyone else, it would be a pretty boring existence.

However, I agree that there are some who will try to take advantage of others by misusing the information which can be (fairly easily) gleaned from the internet. These people should be judged according to the relevant law.

Advertising on the internet is what gives us a free service. Advertisers now have a tremendous power to make relatively accurate assessments of individual’s personalities, priorities and habits thanks to the power of super-computers.

We are all influenced by things we’re not able, or willing, to reflect on at the time of a purchasing decision or when we answer a survey question. That gap in our understanding is being filled by a data-rich world that generates masses of information about our inner desires through tracking cookies and a host of other clues we leave behind as we trek across websites that pique our interest.

In addition, market researchers can access massive amounts of computing power and data storage using low-cost cloud computing services, which offer data processing and storage that can be quickly scaled-up or down, depending on the customer’s needs.

This tech-fuelled revolution is shedding light on how we conceal our innermost urges from ourselves – for example why we are drawn to the exploits of certain public figures and celebrities.

Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cloud computing to peer into the trail people left as they viewed 100,000 news articles online it can be determined that once they click onto a page we begin to see a pattern emerging. This pattern reflects their interests, personality and educational status. We can’t do this in any other way than using AI and the cloud, you’d be in your grave before you’d finished reading.

This produces startling insights, for instance, into how figures such as Boris Johnson and Meghan Markle are really perceived. The power of big data has broken down traditional categories that the market research industry used to define our taste.

By plunging into the cloud with its own software, market researchers confirmed that we are incapable of being truthful to researchers trying to establish what really floats our boat.

Talking to a camera is a very effective tool, but what people say is often miles apart from what they feel, there are so many unconscious factors at play.

Specialist software pointed at filmed responses taps into these unconscious factors via clues such as tone of voice and facial expression. This tells the programmers that we are very hard on ourselves over our guilty pleasures, such as watching a rom-com.

When we are asked to rate a film our natural instinct is to mark down a lightweight movie although we’ve really enjoyed it and lie about how we liked one with intellectual content. We might be giving the serious show a four star rating, but in truth we only got emotionally involved with the rom-com story. Basically, we are just as much at fault as anyone else.