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Naughty Ninjas Say: Beware Of Data Mining Ninja Style


I want to get to know you. I really do. Because I think you’re super interesting.

That thing you do in your car at traffic lights when you think no-one is looking? Fascinating. I do it too!

The stuff you mutter to yourself as you putter away in the kitchen in the evenings? Awesome.

The type of tulip you are in a Facebook test? I'm having second thoughts about that, but probably not for the reasons you'd first assume.

Now, I’m not saying these Facebook tests aren’t fun. Because they are. I used to be just as susceptible to them as anyone else... but lately they’ve begun to worry me. A lot. And the reason they worry me involves data mining.

You might have seen or done that Life Skills FB test that came out a little while ago. I know I saw it. And so did probably a couple million other people.

Like everyone else, I got sucked in by the idea of having an arbitrary number that would define how life savvy I was and started happily clicking away... And then realized what I was doing. I was telling some mystery person/organization/whoever a shit-ton of personal information about myself. In fact, if I’d finished the test, that mystery person would know a hell of a lot more about me than I’d otherwise have been comfortable sharing online.

And that’s a little scary.

Because I started to think about all those times I’d done similar tests or little games on Facebook, happily clicking away, giving my information out willy-nilly.

Now, you might not care if you share with the world what your favorite color is, but think about that Life Skills test that went around a couple of weeks ago. It involved a hundred questions. It was pretty much a questionnaire that someone put together. It would have taken time to make and that’s time that someone wouldn’t have spent without some form of agenda.

Information is big business nowadays. Facebook sells its users’ information for a lot of money on a regular basis to marketing companies or to private advertisers who want to reach their target demographic. That’s how its business model works.

Every time we fill out one of these fun little questionnaires, we log in with Facebook so we’re effectively linking our email address, where we live, potentially our phone number, our age—so much information—to what we like to eat, what we like to read, where we like to holiday.  And we’re making that information the property of a multinational organization so they can sell it to whoever they want. Or so they can target their advertising to us... which still doesn’t explain the Viagra adverts I’ve been getting lately.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

It really makes me think and it gives me the willies (which I really don’t need that Viagra for).

So, here we are. I’ve just written a totally serious post on a very silly site but it’s worth remembering that sometimes a bit of silliness (like a Facebook survey) can disguise something a lot more serious.

Oh, and I really, really do want to know more about you. So next time you look at doing a “what color are you?” test, why don’t you show me a picture of that gorgeous pair of pink shoes you brought last week instead.