Corporations Know (You) Best

By KC Lapidus

Today, we rely heavily on the internet in many areas of our lives. Our dependence on the internet to supply us with information has risen so tremendously that 85% of Americans use of  the internet daily. This is a 153% increase from 2000 (Social Networking Statistics) means there is more information floating around now than ever before. Companies like Apple, Youtube, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and BitTorrent have gained the upperhand with internet information, not by selling people the accessibility they want through their servers, but by having the people give up their  basic personal information. For these companies to be successful they must keep their users happy by finding ways to profit without charging public users. “The value isn’t from amassing Facebook fans. It’s what you do with fans once you’ve amassed them.” Melissa Parrish, Research Analyst on the importance of engagement in social media where she was part of a project that used targeting advertising on Facebook to market a new housing development plan. Their approach to social media created a 220% increase of property enquiries, 4,300 targeted visits, 91 qualified leads, as well as gave them an foot into the highly competitive market whose target audience belongs on the internet (3seven9 Generating Leads on Facebook) . The companies are known for being popular and ubiquitous therefore people assume they have the most efficient and reliable way of regulating their internet sites.

These companies have gained an unusual trust with their thousands of users who willingly give up information for a more personal experience. The internet has gotten more precise and personal for each user. This couldn’t have happened if companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook didn’t use the information accessible through the internet therefore the regulation must continue for quality progression. The start of web browsing personalization began with personal computers being able to be individualized (Definition: Individualized) and people gained a sense of connectedness while personalizing their usernames and passwords. Tech options became a vital part of technology and has opened doors for these centralized servers like Apple, Microsoft, Youtube, Facebook and Google to utilize the information we give on the internet to personalize our internet experience. In the late 90s people began experimenting with more communication while also being personal. The only way they could make it more of what they believe the public wanted was to use the given information floating about the servers. From this internet data people starting creating websites like Tumblr, Youtube, Facebook and now Twitter and Instagram, who are known for their easy, user friendly and useful programs. In the article Naked Launch  from the New Yorker by Nathan Heller he refers to the realization of an ex CEO of Twitter. He says, “…What people needed wasn’t a new array of Twitter function so much as an account of it’s connectedness and cultural ascent.” What Heller was implying is that all the information is in a place for the companies to utilize and regulate the information on the internet for the public’s benefit and wants. These companies have the manpower, the experience and the resources to manage and regulate what most people take for granted.

These companies aren’t trying to scare you with their power, they’re trying to help personalize your internet experience with things you like. “All the information we collect on you as a shopper, we do that and keep it in-house. In other words, it doesn’t go anywhere,” said Chris Brand, from Giant Food. People tend may be skeptical of that, based on personalized offers they receive, but those offers are based on what you buy, not who you are even though they clearly state in the terms and conditions that they have complete access to whatever information you post (What Do Companies Do With Your Personal Information).  These companies have managed to transform “old style corporate manners” into the modern progressive age of technology to accommodate peoples dependence. Why would we want to live in a world where we have to manage all of our own internet activity and search deeply for things that our computers already know when we have software created by some of the most brilliant minds who have already done it for us.

In December of 2013, eight internet companies, AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yahoo and Microsoft, asked the government to loosen their restrictions on their own site’s surveillance laws and practices. A letter got as far as to President Obama himself and Congress announcing a program called Reform Government Surveillance. “The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution,” the companies said as well as that “this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide.” US Tech Companies ask Governments to reform surveillance practices. The companies all promise appropriate and reasonable oversight of their sites and state that they only ask of this because they believe they can provide better privacy and security for their own websites than the government can. Obama is behind the Reform Government Surveillance because he believes in transparency and communication since the NSA has scared off many internet users because of privacy fears. Obama: NSA Reforms Should Give Americans ‘Greater Confidence’

The motivation of these companies is very blurred although we think of it as making money, and the truth is they do want to increase profits and way to do so is to use the available information as quickly, efficiently through user-friendly applications to make the users feel comfortable in regular, consistent use of their sites. People willingly put information out on the internet and that is the way the companies gain your information and we want our information to be secure. The problem is that our information is never truly private and people don’t understand that in the 21st century information travels fast and so do products. These centralized servers are holding a wealth of information that our whole economy, society and government rely on and what better people to regulate it than the ones who’ve created it. The internet is now open for business and Apple, Youtube, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook are just filling a market niche in an exceedingly competitive social market in which people crave, maybe even are addicted to what they have to offer. “There needs to be a balance between safety and the personal freedoms of people, especially law-abiding citizens and institutions,” wrote Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs in a blog post about the industry call for surveillance reform (US tech companies ask governments to reform surveillance practices). The companies are not only the masterminds of the internet, but they are also building off of each other by merging businesses, at the same time they are competing against each other to one up the other which makes the internet better for us. For example, Apple products have been a demand ever since the personal computers came out followed by the iPods and then iPhones. People have gotten so addicted to their products that they just have faith that the next one will be even better and only Apple has the control to release what these people so desperately need.

The internet is not going away anytime soon. In fact we are in the information and globalization era right now and communication therefore these companies have no reason to stop what they are doing. They are leading an industry that so few can comprehend the workings of yet all feel the need to use. Not everyone can run their own internet or even effectively control it and with the NSA scandals lately people are reluctant to trust anyone with their internet, yet they keep using the sites and servers of Google, Facebook, and Apple. These sites have becomes such an intertwined part of Americans lives and people believe it will continue that way for a long time.

Originally edited graphic representation of how many servers each internet company has.
Originally edited graphic representation of how many servers each internet company has.
Statistics comparing how much information teens share on their social media from 2006 to 2012.
Statistics comparing how much information teens share on their social media from 2006 to 2012.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Jacob Hanawalt says:

    This is an interesting viewpoint, but also one that I think is held by very few people. It’s hard to say whether the public’s aversion to companies managing and profiting off of their personal information is warranted. Initially, my reaction is similar to most people’s, but this article does offer a few convincing points to the contrary. Though I agree that allowing companies to manage the internet could make it more streamlined and convenient for everyone, the main goals of these companies will always be to make money. This inherent greed makes it hard for me to trust them, and as such, I wouldn’t feel comfortable letting companies run the internet.

    1. amandalevin says:

      Exactly. This is the danger of using the corporate (for profit) model for many things untenable.

  2. mishabrooks says:

    This is scary. But when I really think about it, what privacy do we need these days. Who really cares if a massive corporation knows what I’m emailing about? It seems that the worst thing that happens is you get some personalized ads.

    1. amandalevin says:

      Unless you consider the slippery slope, and that ads may be only step one….

  3. Perry F. says:

    That’s insane that companies like google know so much about you without you even knowing it. Do you really think that these companies are just doing it to “personalize your experience” or do they have a more sinister goal in mind (beyond selling your information to ad companies. There’s a lot of things you can do with a person’s personal information…)

  4. dejaungray says:

    First, I had not known that Obama is trying to make tasks, like phone calls, transparent. That, by itself, frightens me on many levels, because, in The Circle, more people and more people were willingly letting their lives be watched 24/7 over time. Furthermore, I do not care that by having the internet controlled by corporations, it could make the web more convenient and precise. Later down the road, people will continue to lose more of these freedoms, like privacy, in result of them wanting to have an easier experience. It is disturbing, because may end up adapting to this new way of thinking.

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