Another reason privacy matters

  • Classroom

    So, I have had a number of conversations with people who have no problem with all of their activity online being tracked, because they feel that they have nothing to hide.

    One of the main sets of problems associated with large online companies having a lot of information on someone, is the effects of targeted content. Many people are aware of the echo chamber phenomenon that this can result in, but there is another predatory practice that is becoming more common: price discrimination.

    This practice has been around for a long time, and common examples include giving discounts to seniors and students. The idea is that by raising the base price, and then giving discounts to groups that will not purchase it at this given price, a vendor can get everyone to pay the maximum possible amount for their products. The new thing that is so troubling, is that due to the massive amount of data being collected on everyone, companies are now able to perform price discrimination on the individual level, by tracking ordering and browsing histories. Does it sit well with you that you might be charged more for the exact same product then another customer, only because you have visited a certain website that indicates (on a statistical level) that you are willing to spend more? It doesn’t with me.

    Here is an article about it with airlines. There is another good WSJ article. but it is paywalled.

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    Here is the first bit from the WSJ article I mentioned above:

    Websites Vary Prices, Deals Based on Users’ Information
    By Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Jeremy Singer-Vine and Ashkan Soltani
    December 24, 2012
    It was the same Swingline stapler, on the same website. But for Kim Wamble, the price was $15.79, while the price on Trude Frizzell’s screen, just a few miles away, was $14.29.

    A key difference: where Staples seemed to think they were located.

    A Wall Street Journal investigation found that the Staples Inc. website displays different prices to people after estimating their locations. More than that, Staples…

    Staples is already charing online customers more money for the same products purchased online, when customers come from affluent neighbourhoods.

  • Classroom

    Here is a free article from Lifehacker.

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