The need for privacy is universal but the ways it is experienced across cultures varies, as do the different sub-cultures within a society. The ubiquity of electronic devices and connectivity means that privacy at home or even in the workplace can no longer be thought of in strictly physical terms.
In today´s world our personal information is being demanded and shared across new channels in exponentially higher degrees. The boundaries between what is and isn´t private are constantly shifting. It is the individual’s choice to reveal some information to certain people or groups, while sharing different information with others. In the physical sense, this may mean choosing whether to share a particular document with a co-worker or deciding to use the phone instead of video chat if we don’t want others to see us.
Technology and the confluence of mobile devices and social networks allow advertisers to track and target people to a degree once reserved for fiction. People spend more and more time every day online, visiting websites, consuming media. Thousands of firms are invisibly monitoring these sites and gathering information about user’s location, income, family size, education, age, employment, interests, browsing history and much more. Cookies allow ads to follow users from site to site.
Most consumers have no idea how closely they are being followed online. Behavioural profiling has gone viral across the internet, enabling companies to reach users with specific messages based on the information gathered and mostly without the users’ consent or even the users knowing such businesses exist. Advanced behavioural targeting using technology helps advertisers increase their return on investment by a large percentage.Technology is changing the advertising business. Online space is unlimited and low cost.
Digital advertising is booming thanks to the way in which people surf the internet. The increased uses of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are a gold mine of data about their users. There is massive growth of smart phones/I-phones (approximately 20% of the world’s population currently have a mobile). Mobile devices are changing the way in which people surf the web and Apps are becoming more popular. Apps don’t store cookies, therefore advertisers and App developers use other tools to recognise users, such as their phone’s ID, and they say they identify users by numbers. Concern is increasing as these companies build up detailed profiles of ‘numbered’ individuals. Data-gathering on mobile devices has become more precise. Some are already using beacons (small wireless devices that use radio signals to communicate with nearby mobiles and tablets). Most of this data is collected without the users being aware of it. What if this information can be traced back to the individuals’ identity?
But gathering information about users and grouping them by sellable items is the real big business. Data is the core of business for the $120 billion online advertising industry. The gathering of data is much easier with the internet as people leave traces wherever they go. Being able to reach the right person, with the right message, at the right time, is now possible.
An entire industry has flourished around targeted ads. A website in no longer just a company: it has become a vast amount of linked companies following an individual´s moves, likes and wishes.

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