Are you ahead of the upcoming trend in personal finance?
The retirement savings gap, the aging demographic and growing government deficits are all future trends we know and can possibly plan around. What often gets less attention are a societal trends that have personal finance dimensions to them. With the ubiquity of social media, we should all pay attention to the costs of the continuing erosion of personal privacy.
The topic is, far and away, too complicated to write in a short blog post (and, if this blog had continued, it would have slanted significantly more to these issues). But, think about it this way. In a pre Smartphone era (let’s call this pre circa 2007 when the iPhone was introduced), an “average” citizen’s largest fear was that all the information the government had on you could be used against you. Fast forward to today and, arguably in an era of relative public sector impotence and intensive statistical analysis and analytics by the private sector, that same citizen should be concerned about how all the data cookies collect when surfing, we volunteer on social media or provide as part of an affiliate program.
The information is being used to influence our behavior. Sometimes in good ways and sometimes in bad ways. Take online behavioral marketing. In the simplest sense of the concept, programs collect information on one’s surfing habits- key word terms in searches, key word terms in emails sent, pages visited etc.- and creates an online profile for that person. Every time that person visits sites with this program, it links the person with the online profile and begins to send advertising and content they think the person will find interesting.
In the abstract, this is great. One does not have to dig through pages and pages of sites with no valuable content. However, what if you need to save money and all you keep getting bombarded with is offers to buy more stuff? What if your child is the one being tagged by these programs? What if you did not even know this was happening?
Erosion of personal privacy does not get a lot of play in the mainstream media. After all, they want to know as much about its readers so they can advertise more effectively too. But, the erosion of personal privacy is a personal finance issue ranging from resisting temptation when sticking to a budget to protecting oneself from online fraud.
I have often remarked that giving my address and phone number to a retailer is not worth enough to get 2% off my next purchase. As our world becomes more digital and the race to collect more and more information increases, just think about what cost you put on your own privacy.