Digital Surveillance & Privacy: Behavioral Tracking on Social Networks and in Virtual Worlds

Social media monitoring–where social networks and social marketers track what users post and who they communicate to–is part of today’s behavioral targeting landscape.  Such eavesdropping is also occurring within virtual spaces, as well.  Here’s an excerpt from Behavioral Insider [17 July 2009].  When you read it, consider that the online marketing lobby is working to prevent lawmakers from protecting your privacy:

Cracking the social media monetization code has become one of the main obsessions of behavioral targeting in the past year. The data produced by social networks is just too juicy, too intimate, too valuable for any self-respecting data miner to resist…The great promise of social media for advertisers is that it represents such a rich font of relatively uninhibited exchanges among people, troves of intentionality, a mosh pit of sentiment and real records of what people do. We are only scratching the surface of ways to leverage this new kind of virtual conversations…We are only beginning to see how this sort of online behavior can be leveraged and used both in world and outside of the virtual space. “Think of it as a transactional graph as opposed to a social graph,” says [CEO of TwoFish Lisa] Rutherford. “Take a real-world analog. I am a female in her thirties, married and living in Palo Alto. You know I go to the gym, to local restaurants. I shop. I go to work. That is all fine. And that is equivalent to online behavioral targeting. But wouldn’t you really like to know that I only buy organic fruits, that when I go to the gym I take yoga and pay this much for the class? And when I go to a restaurant I often order chicken. That gives you interesting information in the real world that might make you send me a health magazine as opposed to Us weekly. We can do all of that in a game.”

source:  Virtually Real Behaviors.  Steve Smith.  Behavioral Insider.  17 July 2009.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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