Re-ordering the words of advertisers to say what we really want.

What Does Your ‘Amazon Recommends’ Say About You?

A few years ago, every morning before I had to go to my summer job, I’d catch half of a BBC program called Heir Hunters. Heir Hunters was a TV show focusing on attempts to find missing or unknown heirs, entitled to deceased people’s estates before the British Treasury lawfully collects the money. The show follows the work of Probate researchers from a number of different firms to show how the results of time-consuming research turns out tracking down up to a 100 years of family trees and jobs and friends in order to find a living blood relative.

This show kind of freaked me out. Just thinking about it now brings it all back. It wasn’t the really freaky music that uneased me (although I’m sure it helped) but how even 70 + years ago something, someone (government) was recording information on us, that is available to researchers a-like. I felt unsettled because I know that I put all my information out there for all to see. Facebook practically owns my face. US Embassy has access to my Criminal Record and finger prints and eye scans, visiting holiday records, my parents names & their locations. My tweets have been archived in a database that could be sold to companies (very doubtful to say the least) even getting access to free wifi in a pub asks me for my address. And I give it up all so easily.

I’m fascinated by how much information we give out, as well as subconsciously take in (printed, moving & audio advertisements).  Amazon is a great example of an amazing algorithm  that records EVERYthing you look at and ultimately buy or at least add to your wish list. But what does your buying habbits say about you? Can you imagine Heir Hunters in 50 + years having access to your Amazon account and saying, ‘Well, we know she used to send gifts to XY every christmas – this could be a lead – they also liked a lot of hip-hop. This could explain why she liked to go to America often.’

I once made the mistake of buying an accidental self-help book for artists/designers. It was entitled, “It’s not how good you ARE, It’s how good you WANT TO BE”. Now, on reflection it does sound self-help-y but I do sort of buy into self-help if it’s written correctly and aimed at just being positive and following your ideas, rather than forcing a certain lifestyle change ect onto you.

Now, if you go into Smizz’s Amazon page, within the 100 products Amazon recommends me the likes of ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People ‘,’Being Single Doesn’t Mean You Have To Die Alone’,  ‘How to Instantly Connect With Anyone: 96 All-new Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships’ and ‘How to Make Someone Fall in Love with You in 90 Minutes or Less’ have all appeared.

I ask here, what words, subjects and visiting habits sent this off? Do certain words carry more power than other words. If Amazon is doing this, does this mean every loyalty points card, your credit-card company, your email address is doing the same.

Avoiding the obvious of why they collect this seemingly useless information (for commercial revenue), does this information collection limit our experiences online, shopping, through filters and such? Can this collection of information be used against us – even years and years later? It’s scary to think. What is the real democracy of information  ? And is there any?

Just some food for thought next time you’re perusing your Amazon recommends list.


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This entry was posted on April 15, 2012 by in thoughts and tagged , , , , .
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