BEST OF THE WEB: How digital marketers predict what you’ll buy next

There’s been a lot of talk over the past few years about how digital advertisers gain data. How companies like Google and Facebook are harvesting all that information about clicks and views, promoting it to third parties in order to make money.

The various privacy fears around this sort of activity are numerous, and advocates have been pointing to them for some time now. But in a new book by University of Pennsylvania professor Joseph Turow, an excerpt of which is up on The Atlantic, it’s revealed the system may go deeper than you think.

For one thing, this stealth profiling that’s going on isn’t being noticed by anyone. And as Turow points out, we’re at the beginning of a revolution in the way marketers integrate with our daily lives.

“Every day, most if not all Americans who use the internet, along with hundreds of millions of other users from all over the planet, are being quietly peeked at, poked, analysed and tagged as they move through the online world.”

“Governments undoubtedly conduct a good deal of snooping, more in some parts of the world than in others. But in North America, Europe, and many other places, companies that work for marketers have taken the lead in secretly slicing and dicing the actions and backgrounds of huge populations on a virtually minute-by-minute basis.”

Not only is this changing the way we consume media, it’s also changing how publishers interact with consumers and the business of advertising. Turow references a company called Next Jump, which runs employee discount and reward programs – but by using information gathered from other companies, it can predict what people want to buy.

“A firm called The Daily Me already sells an ad and news personalisation technology to online periodicals. If a Boston Globe reader who reads a lot of soccer sports news visits a Dallas Morning News site, the Daily Me’s technology tells the Dallas Morning News to serve him soccer stories.”

We all know that digital advertising tracking is going on, but we don’t know how big of a revolution it’s starting. This excerpt provides just a glimpse into how this market is set to be turned upside down in the years to come.

Escaping digital thieves with the “off” button

SMEs are becoming increasingly aware of how serious digital security is to doing business. With plenty of hacktivists keen on taking down smaller companies as well as international corporations, the smallest entrepreneur needs to learn about how to protect themselves, and their customers, online.

But on an international scale, this topic is becoming much more serious. So much so, that international experts and diplomats are now abandoning their devices and using special travel-dedicated smartphones when visiting other nations.

Over at the New York Times, there’s a piece on how a China expert at the Brookings Institution, whenever he visits China, leaves his smartphone behind, disables WiFi connections and even removes the battery on his temporary phone.

Why? Fear of being hacked.

And as the piece describes, this is now common practice among Government departments. As hacking and cybercrime becomes so much more sophisticated, the last line of defence is simply turning the devices off.

“If a company has significant intellectual property that the Chinese and Russians are interested in, and you go over there with mobile devices, your devices will get penetrated,” counterintelligence expert and former government official Joel F. Brenner told the publication.

These officials now operate under the expectation they will be attacked. Several of them have – and in this piece, they discuss why they’re not taking second chances.

The argument for Microsoft moving beyond Windows

Microsoft is in a bit of a confused state at the moment. It seems to be doing well with Windows, and its new Windows Phone software, but it’s having trouble getting off the ground.

Over at WindowsITPro, Paul Thurrott has made a passionate argument for making Microsoft much more than Windows. In fact, he argues that expanding the Office software could bring the company more benefits than it may realise.

Expanding Office, he argues, could be done well if it was made “everywhere”, similar to what’s happening with the Office Web Apps.

“In a Microsoft-centric world, you build Office for Windows (and, for competitive reasons, for the Mac). But in the real world, you’d target HTML5 and the web.”

“You’d also target other popular computing platforms – primarily iOS/iPad but also iOS/iPhone and Android for both smartphones and tablets. You’d make sure that Office ran as well as possible on all of these platforms, and not just a single app but as many Office apps as possible. You’d speak openly about how the computing world was changing and that for a large percentage of customers, just having an A-1 product on Windows PCs wasn’t enough.”

Pinterest on the rise

You may not have heard of Pinterest, but this social media start-up is gaining users fast and is becoming one of the most popular new sharing platforms.

You probably don’t even know the site has 10 million users, only 12 employees, and that the majority of its fans are females.

The site is a mixture of many things, including Tumblr and Facebook, but is fast becoming a new place to share and distribute content. Over at Mashable, the publication has created an infographic to give you a crash course on the site.

Pinterest is likely to get even bigger this year, so now’s a good time to start brushing up.

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