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  • Cindy Candelario

A poorly written paper about Google selling your profile as commodity, via S' Allegory of the Cave

Have you ever gone on facebook and found that the advertisements were somehow seeming to read your mind? Time to panic, as this is the newfound proof that websites like Google are selling your information to third party buyers. Companies like Google Inc.are selling their user’s tracking and website information to marketing and advertising companies, conducting business that allows for our information to be shared through multiple sources, with very minimal knowledge coming from the commodities themselves, the internet users. This has created much controversy within the world of advertising, as the public seems to agree now, that this is crossing the line.

The idea of secretly tracking people is not a new concept. Actually, Steve Kroft from NBC News said “Companies and marketing firms have been gathering information about customers and potential customers for years, collecting their names and addresses, tracking credit card purchases, and asking them to fill out questionnaires, so they can offer discounts and send catalogues.” This phenomenon is not new, however, it has become advanced in a way that most individuals do not feel comfortable with. Google allows these third party companies to follow your site browsing, so that they can pinpoint the things that you enjoy, what you’re looking up to learn about, what you’re searching to buy, allowing them to gage what you think you need so that they know the best things to advertise when you travel to the next site. For example, I’ve been searching up flights to San Fransisco for a couple of months now, trying to spread my search history since I know that I’m essentially being spied on. Since the first time that I ever looked it up using google’s flights option, at least three time a week I saw advertisements on flights to San Fran, sometimes changing to Los Angeles. I  bought my flight recently, tired of waiting because I was scared that even the flight prices would increase the more I looked for them because the people behind the screen are watching and I don’t exactly know how they’ve found me already, but they obviously have, since my ads are targeted, which means that I have a portfolio out there about my individual person, and someone knows what I like, who I speak to the most, what I find interesting enough to search up, and what my tastes in clothes, music, art, ect fall in. All this information that I consider personal and intimate, is out there as one of thousands of files that only further exploit individuals during a time and situation where privacy is expected.

I think that this issue very closely relates to Socrates's ideology that unethical behavior stems from ignorance and a lack of knowledge. The large majority of people who browse the internet, have little to no clue how it actually works. Most don’t know about the black web, or hacking. Some don’t even know that it is possible for google to follow all that you do, let alone track it and create portfolios of data off of it. This lack of understanding about how the world wide web really works, along with the ignorance of not reading through the fine print of the terms and conditions, has allowed the public to remain naive on how much privacy we actually have. Most believe that they can fix this tracking by just turning on the incognito pages, without knowing that even those can be tracked, through a different server- just for shorter periods. In trying to understand why google would push the boundaries over to internet target advertisements, I conducted a Potter Box analysis to try and better understand. If I were part of Google, my definition of the situation would be that I were trying to make more deals to make more money through different sources and companies, even though it seems to be circulating a lot of negative attention from the public.

My logical and professional values would be to conduct more business to get more profit, so through those lenses I could see the appeal to making this deal with the third party participants. Pluto’s Allegory of the Cave is a great principle for this situation, as in the Allegory, Pluto’s point is that if you keep someone naive to the rest of the world, that they will only know as much as you allow them too, and a person would have a hard time believing that the rest is true, but by then it’s too late because their brains will not fully be able to understand. Google users are similar to the prisoners in the cave, because although we aren’t chained and enslaved, we still only really know what these companies, that understand computers and the web way better than us, want us to know and understand. For example, only a small percentage of web users understand coding and embedding, which is the fundamentals of creating websites and the language of the internet, so we’re told we can use this in the privacy of our own homes, under assumption of privacy because of this, and then when we realize that there are people who have a much better understanding of the web, and so although we know that we’re uncomfortable with Google being able to create a profile for us, there’s not much that we can do, or get active about changing, simply because we don’t understand the logistics of the internet. My loyalties at Google, within this situation would be to the Google company itself and it’s best interest, and to the partnering companies that we were contracted with. Although I thought about the google users being where the Google loyalties should lie, I began thinking about how grand Google really is and how almost everyone who searches the web uses google applications for something, if not everything, they do on the web, so it does seem as though they have the proper platform for this kind of boundary pushing, because they are so established and have such a population of users, that they can afford to have this issue shake things up a bit without being worried about going out of business or losing many customers, anyways.

Although there is not yet a specific case that has occurred yet, this is still a prominent issue that I think a lot of the public people are concerned and unpleased by. Google sharing our information to other companies so that they can basically stalk us through the internet to know about the more intimate parts of our personalities creates an ethical dilemma because some of their users are catching on to the fact that nothing we do on the internet goes unnoticed, and a lot of personal and valuable information is begin given to random companies through a full profile, so that Google can make more money, and some consider this unjust.

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