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Jun 10, 2021

Digital Tire Tracks

By:Dylan Ratigan

Dylan’s Weekly Notes:

One of the last instructions given when fighters meet in the center of the ring before a prize fight is, “protect yourself at all times.” Seems logical enough. If the other guy is going to try taking your head off, you should probably protect against that. The interconnected world in which we live today is no different. You have to protect yourself at all times.

The world of data and the myriad of ways that data can be parsed and parceled is virtually incomprehensible. It used to be, your internet history was what you needed to worry about. Those were the simple days. Now, have a conversation with someone about dog diapers and see what kind of ads you start getting. Hell, just writing that last sentence, I’m destined to see ads for pet supplies. The digital footprints we leave have proliferated into a network of digital tire tracks.

It’s one thing for content marketers to understand the things you look at online, listen to or read. But take the top two people you text most often and ask them the types of things they watch, listen to or read and I’m willing to argue you’re being served up content based on the hypothesis, friends have like-minded interests and you’ll be interested in content based on what your most frequently contacted friends like. 

When content providers have you by the proverbial digital (eye) balls, it affects behaviors. When algorithms based on your behavior and the behavior of your friends can predict your future actions, free will risks being replaced by subtle manipulation. Just in writing this piece, Google is able to very effectively guess the next words I’m going to write before I can type them. Did it do that based on my past writings, readings or both? Does that change how I articulate my thoughts? Perhaps.

There are many positives to understanding data. I like the suggestions Netflix makes for me. I like that Amazon knows the types of books I read. On the other hand, when conspiracy theorists get sucked down and indoctrinated into a QAnon rabbit hole simply because Facebook can monetize that behavior, you have to consider the cost. When Google can develop a profile of me based on my emails and web searches, which can then be sold to content marketers who bombard me with unsolicited emails, it’s annoying. 

Digital privacy needs addressing. Asking Google, Facebook, etc. to police themselves, the same companies who have a vested interest in monetizing the data we need policing, is like asking the fox to guard the chicken coup. Ask the chickens how that worked out.

Be sure to catch Dylan Ratigan & Tom Sosnoff every Wednesday at 1pm CT for a new episode of Truth or Skepticism live on tastytrade.com.

Listen to previous episodes on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or on tastytrade.com.


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