In class, one point that really started discussion was Austin bringing up the idea of a real-world analog of the data-mining and targeted advertising that we see online: “How would you feel about a man watching everything you do and offering coupons or suggestions on what to buy?” The response was as expected: no one would want that sort of thing. However, we put up with it online because it is less personal (only a machine) and because we have grown accustomed to it. However, are you sure people are not willing to give away personal information for little benefits like, say, real-world cookies?

Before joining this class, I read an article about how willing people are to give away personal information. Essentially, an artist set up a cookie stand at a Brooklyn Arts Festival where people could trade their personal information to get points and purchase cookies (Some shown below). However, the data she was looking for was much more personal than web tracking: it was information like driver’s license numbers, mother’s maiden name, and even fingerprints. With this setup (and a legalese Terms-of-Service if requested), 380 New Yorkers were willing to give enough information to get a cookie. While both the data collection method and benefit to users is completely different from the digital methods we have read about, I think it is a good comparison because it just ramped up both the significance of the data collected and the reward to users.

Hey, this data is still probably less serious then what you agreed to in the EULA.

Cookies for free.*

This art exhibition showed that even in the real-world, people are willing to give up personal information if it provides them benefits and if it is done in a way that is either unnoticeable or appears unharmful (a young lady with a table at an Arts Festival on a sunny day, as seen below). After all, even online, very few would be unwilling to tell a sketchy website where they are for lunch, but millions are just fine posting every meal on Instagram.

*Just fill out this form (and provide fingerprints, if you want the Instagram ones)

For this reason, I propose an alternative analogy for the real-world equivalent of digital data-screening: How would you feel if your shoes contained patented Apple GPS tags? As a side benefit of the Apple software, stores will be able to tell when you enter and where you are in them, and then use this data to rearrange a shelf before you get to it (so you never see it) based on previous purchases that the store linked to your shoes. Because they are shoes that you just buy at the store, the data doesn’t really know who you are (just like your MAC address/digital self), and you can always put on a different pair of shoes (use a different browser/computer). If this were the case, would you be fine enabling cookies?