I’ll tell you about two stories which got on my nerves lately. Both are of course connected with online services and how companies handle your data.
1) I was watching a video by Big Brandon Carter (BBC) on books about success, motivation, working out. BBC was saying that he has a certificate for speed reading. I checked out the website of the “school” where he got certified and found a free pdf to chew on. I also posted on my Facebook a question to my friends, if somebody can recommend me a book or a technique on the topic. There were no hash tags or whatsoever involved.
However, next day I received straight in my Gmail Inbox (not spam folder) an unsolicited commercial message. According to the Bulgarian laws, you can get spammed like that. The message was exactly about Speed reading with links to some company site etc. This was an example of how companies are allowed to share your information with 3-rd parties and just have full access to your interests, personal life – everything. I’m completely aware that it’s in the Terms and Conditions and that I’ve agreed on this, through clicking a button.
2) Whenever I’m on eBay I’m looking for motorcycling gear, helmets or clothes. Until one day when my boss was having a child and at the office we decided to get him some funny “Dad” t-shirts as gift. So you can imagine, I’m looking for something untypical compared to my search history, I’m logged in through IP address that I haven’t used before, too. Those two things were enough for eBay to block my account straight away and to ask for password reset. The password I had was anyway quite new, due to PayPal being hacked. Should they block everyone who is making a purchase for a friend – aka. untypical product search?! What if I was the one becoming dad (hopefully that will never happen) and those t-shirts were for me?! What if I just got a new computer/apartment/network provider and my IP address was different?! eBay doesn’t care about any of those scenarios – they will just go straight for it and block you out. I think, they’ve went too far with thinking about security that they’ve sacrificed the overall user experience – something like going from A to B with airplane, but having to go through US style security check.
Oh, by the way – now my search results turn completely useless. If I search for jacket, I’ll get mainly results of jackets for kids!
What do you think? Where should be the border of privacy online? Should random companies by able to e-mail you out of the blue? Where is the borders of tracking “suspicious” user behavior? What alternatives could we use?