This week’s process post prompt looks at data trails and tracking. In the early ages of the internet, data tracking was an entirely new concept. Google was one of the most notorious for this when they collected search prompts from users to improve their search engine. Nowadays, almost every single individual on the internet gives up their data in one shape or form—it is nearly impossible for you to not give up your data. Only those who properly do their due diligence may be able to minimize it, but not avoid it entirely. I will be looking at data trails and data tracking from both the perspective of my own audience on Tess Drives and my personal take on how I feel about data trails and the choices I currently make when I am on the internet.
Tess Drives’ Audience
I successfully installed Google Analytics on my website on November 2, 2022. It was a little confusing to get it up and running mostly because the instructions on how to download it wasn’t quite clear in lecture and tutorial. I finally had the “ah ha” moment when I realized the Google Site kit plug in had both Google Analytics and Adsense and you need to go to Google Analytics on the web to access the metrics. I’ve had to help a few colleagues in the class with this as well because we all thought that Google Analytics itself, was a WordPress plug in.
Here is a summary of some of the data from Google Analytics:
In the last 7 days…
-100% of page viewers have directly searched my website to land on the webpage
-0% of page viewers have stumbled upon my website through socials (YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, or Instagram)
-61.1% of page viewers are from USA
-27.8% of page viewers are from Canada
-5.6% of page viewers are from American Samoa
-5.6% of page viewers are from India
-83.3% of page viewers view my website on desktop
-16.7% of page viewers view my website on mobile
-Average duration on my homepage is 4 minutes 48 seconds
-13 page views on my website home page
-4 Views on my contact us page
-2 Views on my about page
What does this data tell me? Well, it gives me a glimpse on how well my website is being perceived by the public. For example, I can see that my website has reached viewers outside of my Pub 101 class judging that 61.1% of my page visits have come from users in the USA. Or, I know that I need to advertise more on my social media platforms to get viewers from my YouTube to head over to my website judging that all of my page viewers have come from directly searching my website rather than being redirected from my social platforms.
On the flip side, some people may find that I am breaching their privacy by tracking these kind of metrics without their permission. I find it odd that there is no automatic disclaimer from Google Analytics to tell my audience that their actions are being tracked on my website. Maybe this is because Google Analytics tracks engagement anonymously? I am unable to view personal information of specific visitors to my page, I am only able to see generated numbers from the tool.
So, is data trails and tracking wrong? In this specific example, I feel like my audience has nothing to worry about. Since I am not gathering personal information such as legal name, age, sex, or location. I am simply trying to learn the skills to create a website and to engage with my audience effectively.
On the other hand, large corporations — especially in social media — gather not only your personal information but track your behaviour online that is associated with your account info to target you with ads and suggested content. This has only come to light in the last decade where Facebook was put on the spotlight for unethically selling Facebook users’ information to third party advertisers in the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal (Confessore, 2018).
The problem with data trails and tracking when it comes to social media and other corporations, the agreement to give up some of your data is buried in thousand-word pages of terms and conditions—which the majority of people just scroll through and click “agree” and get on with their lives.
So I ask again, is data trails and tracking wrong? Morally, it is wrong. But I am no expert on privacy laws in Canada and the United States. To me, I feel like it is impossible to not give up your data nowadays because it has been so convenient for big corporations to use our data and make our lives easier through things like tailoring content online, Smart Home tools like Amazon Alexa, and productivity enhancements such as the Apple ecosystem.
It is evident that if you want to make your lives easier with technology, it will have to come with an expense of giving up some form of data.
Shay’s Opinion and Choices
Nowadays, data is key and companies are willing to pay millions for it. I have come to a point in time where we have become so complacent with giving up my own data to companies to make my daily life easier. For example, under privacy settings in my iPhone, I have nearly every app tracking my location because apps like Starbucks require to have my location tracking on to make it more convenient to locate the nearest Starbucks or to mobile order a coffee. It’s just so much more simpler to give these large corporations the ability to track me to fully benefit from their applications.
A more severe example of giving out my personal information is of course to the company of Tesla. I have set the Tesla app to track my location as “always” since my iPhone is the key for the car. Tesla has advised users to keep the settings like this to allow the car to unlock quicker when I walk up to it.
Something that may seem even more frightening is that I have basically given up my entire rights to Tesla when I am driving the car. I am currently enrolled in the limited early access full self-driving beta program where I have been admitted to use Tesla’s beta software based on my driving habits. You will see in the screenshot that I have included (Autopilot Review, 2022) that in order to use the beta software on the car, I need to “consent to the collection and review of on-going VIN-associated vehicle driving data while enrolled” – essentially, I am granting Tesla to not only spy on me while I am using the software, but they can spy on me and collect data from me while associating the footage with the exact vehicle identification number that was assigned to my vehicle. With all this in mind, I’ve thrown in the towel because who else can say that they are driving a car that is “full self-driving,” to me, it’s entirely worth it. Tesla is clearly using this information further enhance their self-driving software so that it can become fully autonomous and they definitely have better things to do than to spy on me.
All in all, I definitely could care less with how much data I have given to companies such as Tesla. I am able to fully utilize the $15,000 software upgrade to make my car drive itself and I am confident Tesla has better things to do than to spy on me online.