Penarth Computer Club

First published in News

THERE'S just no pleasing some people. A boss in my office was never satisfied. If everyone brought good news he’d moan that he needed to know the bad news so he could prepare counter-actions. If all he got was bad news he needed something to cheer him up.

A service manager friend was forever worrying about coping with a heavy workload or where to get work in quiet times. A treasurer of my scout group worried where we could get enough money. We sorted that problem only for him to worry about how could we justify holding the cash reserve.

Why am I remembering this? The age of big data is taking off as I mentioned in January. The data you provide is good or bad news depending upon your perception.

Internet web sites are VERY keen to gather information and that can be good for you. It can improve your browsing experience by remembering you and your interests. That enables it to target any advertising and persuade you to buy.

This can be a pain if you share your machine because you will get advertising targeted at your sharer. (I have spent weeks looking at ladies shoes.) It works the other way, too; my wife has no wish to read ads about computer gizmos.

So far, this is all unimportant and sometimes amusing. But it goes deeper. Gather enough tiny pieces of information about a person and other things can be inferred. Your general health can be deciphered from your supermarket purchases of medications and choice of foodstuffs. Your lifestyle can be indicated by where, when and for what you use your credit cards.

Does anyone invite their friends to a party using Facebook any more? How many houses have been trashed?

In the extreme you could reach the point where so much is known about you and ads and information so tailored to your personal preferences that important things might simply pass you by because the internet has no incentive to bring them to your attention.

If you want to avoid this happening to you, there are things you can do.

You can browse in privacy mode and ensure that your browsing history is not retained.

…Opt for sites not to put cookies on your machine – or not use sites that insist.

Be less predictable and pretend you are interested in obscure things that you do not like. You will get the ads, but not be tempted to buy.

Deliberately browse for topics that you would like to know about if anything interesting happens, just to be on the safe side.

Because they cater for a range of people, an odd item of interest can catch your eye in a newspaper. Will the Internet become so refined that such delight might no longer apply? Be warned.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday, March 25, at All Saints Lesser Hall, Victoria Square, Penarth, 7.30pm for 8pm. More on digital photography by Guy. Visitors always welcome. See penarthcomputerclub.co.uk

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