I am sure that if you have seen any news stories in the past couple of days you have seen the reports that Orbitz offers Mac users more expensive hotel rooms than it does PC users. According to research, Mac users typically spend more money when it comes to shopping for certain items, like hotel rooms, than PC users. Orbitz has been taking advantage of this knowledge and varying their hotel searches based on the type of computer that you are using. There is nothing wrong with this practice, they are not offering the same rooms at a higher price but rather they are offering more expensive (nicer) rooms to users based on their computer preference.
This revelation led to a story on the CBS This Morning news program on Wednesday about other companies that follow the same practice. According to the news story, they were surprised to find out that companies regularly track consumers while visiting their websites. Companies use this data collection to determine what type of computer you are using, where you are accessing the website from, and what other websites you visit.
An example that was given was that Macy’s Department Store would know that you had visited their website multiple times during the same day while at work. The company can then target you with advertising on your computer to entice you to make a purchase from the Macy’s site before the day was over. By offering you free shipping or a small discount the company is hoping to capitalize on your interest and earn your business while you are still in the market.
What really got my attention about this story was the amount of surprise that was registered by the hosts of the show at this revelation. They were amazed that companies had the capability to do this. Of course, they were concerned about the invasion of their privacy and were a little taken aback that this was happening.
I thought everyone knew that this was not only possible but was common practice. After all, when you visit a companies website and then start seeing advertisements from that company on your computer screen for the next few days did you really think that was a coincidence?
Personally I don’t see any difference from this and the advertisements that are being shown during their television program. After all much research has gone in to determining the demographic of the person that is watching their morning show so that they can sell the advertisements to the appropriate companies. That is why I am able to watch this program each morning while I am getting ready for work without having to pay a premium.
This entire news story reminded me of the “Big Brother” post that I wrote last week. Just as these hosts of this television program were caught unaware that their movements and online habits were being tracked, we sometimes forget that all of our movements and activities are being tracked. We might think of Amazon, Google, or Apple as the big players when it comes to online information gathering, however, God knows all of our movements both online and off.
God is the ultimate information gatherer. He knows everything that there is to know about us. He knows our actions, our words, and even our deepest thoughts. If you are worried about Amazon or Google collecting information about your activities then you might want to start worrying about the data that God is collecting on you. After all, there is more at stake than just some sidebar advertising, you will have to answer for this data one day.
As a side note for those who aren’t tech savvy, the data that is collected about your online activities is collected each time you log on to the internet. Google uses this data to serve up the advertisements that you find on each website, including the ones on this site. And every website tracks anonymous usage data about its visitors. This is relatively old technology and is not something that just started this week. For example:
From the almost 10,000 unique visitors that have visited ChristianDroid this year:
- 56.99% were on a Windows Computer
- 13.34% were using an Android operating system
- 12.29% were using a Macintosh OS
- 4.69% connected on their iPhone
- 4.27% connected on their iPad
- 2.37% were using a Linux based OS
- and the rest were divided between Blackberry, iPod, Windows phone and even a Wii.I can tell with a quick glance that:
- 81% of our visitors are right here in the United States
- 4% comes to us from the United Kingdom
- 3% showed up from Canada
- The remaining 12% is comprised by visitors from 123 different countries from around the world.
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