You may not know about BlueKai but boy does it know a lot about you. The consumer data bundling website is detailed in a really interesting article in the NYT about bunded online consumer data. It raises some pretty interesting points about the diminishing security we all face while browsing and shopping online. If you want to see what the advertisers know about you check out Blue Kai’s registry. Blue Kai purports to be transparent with their data and even allowing you to opt-out of the tracking on their website.
My consumer data was pretty innocuous and surprisingly inaccurate. My locational data included not only Ann Arbor and Washington D.C (college and my hometown respectively) but also Dallas-Fort Worth Arlington (a place I have never been). Additionally, it lists automobiles as one of my interests even though I am neither driver (I don’t have a license) nor a car buff. Though the automobile interest still bogles my mind I came to realize that in my frequent google searches for David Foster Wallace’s essays (acronym DFW) I had accidentally tricked the online marketers into thinking I was looking for tickets out of the airport with the same acronym. Having looked at several of my friends’ information on BlueKai I was surprised at how little info had been compiled on myself. Many of my friends had pages upon pages of stats about their income classification (almost always wrong), gender (50% right), shopping habits (usually wrong). Maybe I shy away from the main sites associated with BlueKai, but it would be interesting to see how other people in the classes’ consumer data stacks up. Interestingly, despite my frequent use of Amazon’s online marketplace to purchase books both for school and for pleasure, there is no mention of any of this activity in my BlueKai profile.
The end of the article discusses the potential issues of the “filter effect” where you begin to experience the internet in a significantly different way from others with a different consumer profile. Will targeting services lead to the chunking of the internet? Does it make financial sense to preclude certain groups from accessing certain content (or deals)? While I could see how some people would be concerned over potential segregation of content based on political leaning, I don’t think that these sort of practices extend much further than offering advertisements more tailored to your interests (beach vs. mountain vacations or Prius vs minivan) or potential price discrimination (offering deals to those known for a more thrifty consumer history while neglecting them for big spender accounts). At the end of the day, I’m fine with giving away my consumer data and don’t believe in opting out; the data I give away is repaid not only in the free services it pays for but also in the more targeted ads and experience provided to me across the web as a result.