Posted by & filed under M-commerce, Privacy, revenue model.

Description: There is now an enormous multibillion-dollar industry based on the collection and sale of this personal and behavioral data.


Date: March 10, 2011

Google’s Ads Preferences believes I’m a guy interested in politics, Asian food, perfume, celebrity gossip, animated movies and crime but who doesn’t care about “books & literature” or “people & society.” (So not true.) Yahoo! has me down as a 36-to-45-year-old male who uses a Mac computer and likes hockey, rap, rock, parenting, recipes, clothes and beauty products; it also thinks I live in New York, even though I moved to Los Angeles more than six years ago. Alliance Data, an enormous data-marketing firm in Texas, knows that I’m a 39-year-old college-educated Jewish male who takes in at least $125,000 a year, makes most of his purchases online and spends an average of only $25 per item. Specifically, it knows that on Jan. 24, 2004, I spent $46 on “low-ticket gifts and merchandise” and that on Oct. 10, 2010, I spent $180 on intimate apparel. It knows about more than 100 purchases in between. Alliance also knows I owe $854,000 on a house built in 1939 that — get this — it thinks has stucco walls. They’re mostly wood siding with a little stucco on the bottom! Idiots. Read rest of story

Questions for discussion:

  • Why is there such little outcry for loss of control of our personal information in this digital age?
  • Should this personal data mining be reined in by government policy?

28 Responses to “Data Mining: How Companies Now Know Everything About You”

  1. Brittni Maurer

    There is little to no outcry on loss of control of our personal information because a lot of the people today using the internet to show, browse and download stuff don’t understand that each time they perform one of these activities they are releasing their personal information to some sort of company that will take their info and resell it to other company’s so that they can improve their marketing strategies and target the right customers.
    I think that data mining is a great way for companies to find their idea customers a target them but I don’t think that they way that they track people and gather personal information is the right way of going about the situation. I do think that personal data mining should be reined in by government policy because I feel its an invasion of privacy to have your personal information took from you with out you giving consent to something to have it.

  2. Jenn Oloya

    I believe that there is such little outcry for loss of control of our personal information because we put our information out there ourselves by participating in surveys, joining social networks sites such as facebook and subscribing to sites. Another reason why people might not be upset about the loss of control about their personal information is that they don’t know that they have lost control. When you subscribe online or put your information in the computer there is usually a terms and condition page that pops up and has a section for privacy saving that they will not sell your information which many people assume is enough to keep their privacy.
    I don’t think that data mining should be reined by the government policy like many of the people interviewed in the article, I think that is more a nuisance than anything else, it doesn’t really do much harm to an individual, even though the information might be wrong it doesn’t really matter if people over the internet thinks you’re a 18 yr old girl even though you’re a 45 married male.

  3. Dustin

    People dont outcry because they majority of us dont even know that our personal information is being lossed (or sold). If we only new what some of the companies did with our so called Secure Personal Inforamation. I”ve seen an article that said even if we put our email or phone number on the Do Not Call list, the poeple that make these lists, turn around and sell it. Even if we do outcry there is not a alot we can do about it. Once its on the web its not out inforamtion anymore. For example Facebook. Once we post a picture or post anything. It is not ours anymore its property of facebook. Have you ever read the policy that you most of the time skim to the bottom of and click I agree to move on? I wonder what it says?
    I think the government could step in and maybe slow it down. But there are too many marekting companies that want to know what we look at and what things they can try to put in front of us to try to get us to buy. there’s no way the government could regulate all of it.

  4. Landon

    I think the main reason there isn’t an uproar from people, is that the majority of people are not informed, and have no idea that this sort of data collection is even occurring, shoot I didn’t know they collected that kind of info on me, I knew they were collecting some but I didn’t know that it went that deep, crazy! No wonder identity theft is such a problem.

    With the extent that companies are gathering our information, I think some government policies should be put in place. I don’t think something personal like a SIN should be known by a marketing company. Other info like our interests, likes, buying habits, etc. can’t really be governed by policies. The marketing companies aren’t doing anything illegal really, they are collecting data from a website that we willingly go to. It would be a waste of resources to try to stop this from happening, money could be better spent elsewhere, like fixing that damn pothole! Besides I love on iTunes the genius recommendations feature, I have bought many songs from the list of recommendations all because iTunes knows what kind of music I like, what I have recently purchased.

  5. Logan Redman

    Tips: download firefox, go to preferences and choose to keep NO HISTORY on you computer. This avoids the storage of cookies which, these companies and thriving for. Of course, lots of information is gathered instantly when you click on things, order goods, subscribe to things or whatever but keeping no history of the sites you’ve visited is important. Firefox deletes what you have done on the internet as soon as you close it (if you’ve selected this option). However, I bet firefox doesn’t tell you that they too are collecting mass amounts of information on us.

  6. bretton macdonald

    Many people do not realize that data is being collected, so thats why it hasnt be a huge outcry. Most people in university do know about it because we learn about this data mining in a number of different courses not just information systems classes. People who are not exposed to this kind of news arent aware of all this and I personally think its to bad. I do not think it should go as far as full government regulation but I do believe there should be some more policies forcing companies to tell consumers about some of their data mining procedures. After all data mining doesnt cause any harm really to people especially the ones who dont even know whats going on.

  7. Russ

    Not a lot of people get upset because most of them do not know that their personal information can be gathered by the websites they visit. For others they may know that certain personal information is being leaked, such as the purchases they often make on amazon or Ebay, or the types of things the follow on twitter. I think for most people do not stop and take the time to think about where this information could be going. Perhaps many people when they are searching for something they are interested in or buying a product they really want they just happen to enter in their email address just to get to the next screen and see what it is that they are looking for, without thinking who might be processing their personal information on the other end.

    I think that there should be a policy set forth by the government to regulate what information can be kept. It is kind of a double-edged sword though. The reason i say that is because as companies gather more information about individuals they can better cater to the needs of each individual customer. It makes each customer have a better experience, by cutting down search times, and helping the customer find the best prices without too much effort. However, if this information is being abused to steal identity and banking information or commit any offense that is harmful then the government should punish the personal breaching the rights of others.

  8. John

    The sharing of information is becoming a real concern in society today. It is amazing what you can find out there, just by googling yourself. I know some of my academic and personal achievements are on the web, but who knows what else. The fact that your social security number could be out there scares me. The reason I think that this topic is not taken seriously is because that half the information out there is no where close to accurate about yourself, your spending habits, your achievements, your goals, whatever it may be. As seen in this article it is amazing how much stuff is out there about one person, but it is even more amazing how much stuff is wrong. The fact that these company think all these things about a girl who is actually a guy kinda makes me. I mean yeah, some of it may be accurate, but data mining of this type just seems useless to me. If you want real data, you have to ask your customers without gathering covert info, because most of the time, as this article proves, it is nowhere close to accurate.

  9. Hugh F

    To be honest I am not all that concerned with data mining and the collecting of my online habits, mostly because the only real reason they want that information is to hopefully sell me something in the future. Sure it is kinda unnerving that there is record of every silly thing you have seen on the internet but if heaven forbid it was used inappropriately then we have a law system to protect you. Beyond that I get to have my side bars filled up with advertisements that are actually relevant to my interests, or the interest of whoever was using my computer last. As technology gets better and we have everything from advertisements that can record if you looked at it and for how long, to these massive data farms, we should probably be asking the question ‘how far is too far?’ before we get comfortable with something that is truly out of a big brother storyline.
    When you have people like myself who don’t get too up in arms about this it’s probably because of how little we know about what is being collected. I am sure if these companies laid out the internet information they received from my computer I would be up in arms. But once again, it comes down to what they do with it.

  10. Nicole Hendry

    I think that for most people they don’t really know that information about them is being collected and for those who are informed may not know to what extent. I know that I didn’t realize how many ads came up on my facebook page that interest me on the side. I now realize this is due to the data mining that is being done about me. I think that for most people they may not know, mind or may enjoy the fact that things that might interest them are right in front of them. Just like in the article it says that he thought it was kind of nice that things such as concerts coming to a place near his home actually were enjoyed.

    I think that the government may want to reign in some of the things that data miners may be able to get a hold of. Most important is probably information that can get into the wrong hands. The world often tends to balance itself out though as we are seeing from the new website that actually allow you to see who is following you and teaches you how to turn it off.

  11. Taofikat Awopeju

    I feel that data mining is a great way for companies to find their ideal customers and target them but the way they track people and gather personal information is not the right way of going about the situation.people when they are searching for something they are interested in or buying a product they really want they just happen to enter in their email address just to get to the next screen and see what it is that they are looking for, without thinking who might be processing their personal information on the other end. SIN is a big thing that no body should know unless you employer which you have already signed that your information will not go out and for government official workers not for marketing companies.

  12. selena759nova

    people are so willing to release their personal information online because, A: they think it’s harmless; as in, who cares if they know i’m 30 years old? so are thousands of other people. and what could they do with this information. B: they do so in the interest of self marketing, ie: social networking sites. C: it’s in the cloud, these advertisers are no longer flogging our mailboxes with junk, just the pages we visit and email boxes. it isnt physical clutter.
    people are not aware of the extent to which data mining is performed, i’m not saying i’m fully aware, but it isnt just what you put up on facebook, it’s that plus your ticketmaster purchases, where you do you banking, etc…
    some of this information seems innocent enough, but more malicious mining techniques could, through these portals, access SIN’s, credit card information, whatever.
    as far as government regulation is concerned, it isnt like they wouldnt benefit from data mining themselves. profiling activities could help political parties gage where a person’s political views are held. i’m just saying, a healthy amount of paranoia is necessary keep personal things personal.

  13. Brenda Bicharr

    I personally think a government statement or rule will not change anything. The reason why people don’t have a huge outcry is because; for every social network you log in to or sign up for ; you automatically sign a contract saying you have given that company the authority and the right to use your information to do what they want to do. With that in mind how can consumers complain, when there is no one on earth who can look at you and guess your private information. So how else do they know it, you told them

    We actually have a huge outcry to be part of the internet world in every way, being in one social network is no longer enough, we want to be in more than two. we want to join online dating sites. If you find a need to enjoy the pleasures of social networking then bear the consequences that follow.

    If Government had a rule in play, for every time we use our own finger to give out information, we are not longer covered by that rule. even if that company protects your information; who protects you from the hackers hacking the company’s system ???

  14. DC

    There is no outcry because many people do not realize how much their lives are being controlled with some big corporations behind the scene, who send you ads with things that you could not have bought without the fuel of an specific advisement that is targeted at you specifically. It will take a long time before people start learning the impact of data mining on their lives. It is definitely cause for concern, i look at it as cyber net deception, abuse of privacy rights. People should not be driven to made a decision by an advertisements placed next to their favourite sites screen deliberately. Another reason people don’t take it serious is because you go to those sites at your own will, this makes it hard to fight the cause. Data mining should definitely be ruined by the government because it’s just as good as theft but now but the difference is that data mining is done in a more complex and distanced way from your physical life, so you won’t see the immediate impact to care right away.

  15. Ify Moseri

    Well I believe most people don’t know the important of the information they put online. This i believe causes little outcry for loss of control of personal information. If people get educated on what information to put online I believe the loss of control of personal information will be reduced. Such is the dark side of the “Information Age.” In trying to make our lives better with technology, humans have made our lives worse…with less human to human contact, by killing our privacy, and by generally making our lives miserable. Computers made some tasks more efficient. However, instead of making life better for humans, computers made it worse. Now, employers expect 1 human to do the work of 3 people. People expect instantaneous gratification of their desires. The greatest loss due to information technology is the loss of our privacy. When looked at in the balance, computers have done more harm than good. We can build super computers and nuclear missiles but we can’t feed the 15 million kids that die every year of starvation in this world.

  16. Momah Moseri

    In these recent days, everyone puts everything online whether it’s through facebook, twitter or other social network. I think that there is such little outcry for loss of control because we put our personal out there for the whole world to see whether through registering for online gaming or online surveys; as soon as your personal information is online, you are basically inviting the whole world access to your personal information. When you buy shoes online, ebay or Netflix, you have to put in your personal information for your item to get to you. All these are means by which you put your information online.
    I think that government should do something about it. Put maybe a limitation to which data miners should access someone’s file because if the information gets to the wrong hands then it will be bad and not good for the victim. So we should be careful of how we put information online

  17. Katie

    It is scary to realize how much information about us is out there and how freely accessible it is. Information is power in today’s world and has helped companies advance greatly. People don’t realize how much information is being gathered, or even how it is being accessed. Privacy has definitely become more of a luxury and I don’t know if that is something I agree with. But it is hard to know where to draw the line. People are so willing to release information. They should be more educated and aware about what they are putting out there online. People don’t realize what is being collected. It doesn’t bother me as much because I don’t see how that information would really be used, but I can see how people should really just be more aware.

  18. Clayton Varjassy

    I think that the majority of people are not only uneducated, but they also don’t really care. If a company is data mining information from millions of users, it is tough to be worried that they would want to single out someone like me in a negative sense. Sure google ads might recommend products it thinks i’m interested in but am not, or youtube might recommend videos for me I have no interest in based on past viewing experience, but where is the harm in that? I think the paranoia of the internet being evil and that their are hackers consistently attacking every website you might have to edit your credit card number into has faded.

    That being said, I do believe that there should be some regulation as to what a person is able to mine for and what that acquired information may be used for. A major problem with this thought is that with the internet being so global, it would be tough to regulate some of these things.

  19. Ashleigh

    There is such little outcry for loss of control of our personal information in this digital age because people are aware that there information is getting stored somewhere but they are unaware of at what extent. People probably do not realize that whatever web sites they browse are being monitored by different companies and will be used for their marketing strategies. Personal data mining should be reined by government policy but only to a certain extent. Even though personal data is being exposed companies can use this to their benefit. Being able to track information of the websites people go to could really help businesses know where consumers are and what products they are wanting. However, they should just be doing this for that purpose only. Anything extremely personal like social insurance numbers should not able to get to marketing companies, as it is not relevant for marketing purposes.

  20. Chelsa

    The reason there is such little outcry for the loss of our personal information in this digital age is because it has become the norm. People have grown up with this, or gotten used to it. Since people are so used to it they are desensitized to it. They don’t even realize that it may be happening. Other people do realize it’s happening they simply do not care. Loss of privacy is the price to pay for convenience, accessibility and other things and it obviously is not worth much to people anymore. In some cases yes the government should be regulating some aspects of data mining. There are some things that people should just not get a hold of. Some of this sensitive information should include any information that can be used to commit identity theft including social insurance number, credit card numbers, bank account information etc.

  21. Todd McCune

    There is such little outcry for loss of personal control over information because people love to use the internet for services. If we did not give out personal information we would not be able to use online banking, shop online, buy items off Ebay, or use just about any other service that requires identity and payment. Consumers in this day and age are so hooked on e-commerce and the convenience it brings to their lives that they have no problem giving out personal information to access the type of online service they’re looking for.
    I don’t think the government needs to go too crazy on policies about data mining because a lot of time when identity theft occurs it is because of the carelessness of the user. If someone decides to give out their personal information in a spam e-mail or internet pop-up, their repercussions faced should not affect the general public because many of us benefit from the convenient services provided by the internet.

  22. Rio P

    There is little outcry to this personal information theft because very few people who use the internet and internet related devices, know about it. There is great trust placed in the internet and it’s so called “security”, I am one of these people. Whether the information that is collected about me is correct or not, it has the potential to seriously damage my life through identity theft by phishing scams and other viruses. It is frightening to believe that all of this information exists in order for companies to make a profit. As for government regulation, it is difficult to regulate the processes that occur on the internet. Even if government policy was to take effect, what is regulated and what is not? If the government is also regulating the data, how can we ensure that the government is not using this data to their advantage?

  23. mike

    I don’t think that there is much of an outcry for the privacy of personal data because the information that is being given up is pretty much submitted there voluntarily. When people fill out surveys or join social networking groups the information that the individual is giving up is not being forced out of them. I don’t think most people care if companies know what your name is, where you live, how old you are, what your spending habits are and what you are interested in.
    I don’t think there needs to be much in the way of government policy. There should be policy involved with the malicious use of this information that could lead to identity theft and criminal activity. The pure mining of data seems harmless enough, especially if companies aren’t even getting the facts straight. With the popularity of social networks its not hard for anyone really to find out information on someone else.

  24. A.S.

    The reason why there is not much outcry for loss of control of our personal information in this digital age is because people are either unaware of data miners that extract such information, or people voluntarily sign themselves up for exposure. For example, subscribing to websites, filling out surveys, or joining social networking sites can be a potential threat to an individual. Google preferences for example, uses such data to tailor specific products and services to my individual preference. But sometimes it can be inaccurate. If there is no direct threat, then people don’t really care whether companies are using personal information to collect data at “2/5 a cent.”

    But the fact that TIME Magazine columnist Joel Klein gave his name and e-mail address to Michael Fertik, the CEO of, and called back and read his Social Security number is frightening just to think. As a result, personal data mining should be reined in by government regulation, where strict policy should be implemented for companies that act in a security breach.

  25. Teigen

    I always knew that information about myself was being collected each time I went on a site, but I never knew there was THAT much! The fact that all of this information is being collected by cookies just upsets me.. because without being able to click the “remember me” button on a login page, I would hate using the internet. The worst thing is having to continually enter your login and password for the sites you use everyday, multiple times. Sure, it is entirely up to you whether or not you want to store cookies on your computer.. and in all honesty you can maintain your information pretty well if you dont ever buy anything, download anything or use the internet for hardly anything. Fact of the matter is that it’s happening, and it’s going to happen.. and there is not much we can do.. We just need to be more aware that it is ACTUALLY happening and do as much as we can do prevent it.

  26. Chris

    There is an outcry for personal information being used which that is our personal information that should not be open to the public. Someone calling you up and telling you what your social security number is not a good thing to be in someone else’s hands. Seeing that some data mining companies have been banned is a good thing but it also shows how scary the internet is and how your personal information is free to anyone. How you can think that something is free but they are using your personal information to pay for something is outrageous. I am very glad there is a multi-billion dollar company being invested into to stop hackers from getting your personal information. Yes there is some important aspects to knowing what you have bought in the last bit at Amazon to refer you to more products you might like but there is a line that needs to be made.

  27. Rob C

    With today’s vast advancements in technology, it is hard to keep up with the ever changing environment of how we view, use, and purchase over the internet. These changes have also allowed companies to reach consumers in new ways as well. For instance with data mining companies are able to populate information about specific consumers, which allows them to customize their advertising methods in order to potentially experience increases in sales.

    With a company being able to tell me my Social Security by just providing my full name, it would definitely create a sense of uneasiness where it would be evident companies are indeed selling my information to other companies. This is truly a scary period to be living in.

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