The scare-mongering that’s going around today about data usage is driving me up the wall. When I see people having meltdowns about Facebook using their data to deliver content to them, I’m thinking: “WHERE THE F*** HAVE YOU ALL BEEN, under a freaking rock???”

Would you rather be sorting through loads of junk that doesn’t pertain to you as soon as you log onto the internet from your favorite device? Perhaps some stories about sports teams you didn’t know existed, a bit of local news from a community located halfway around the world, or some recommendations for musicians you haven’t thought about in 20 years? Maybe, while you’re browsing, you’d like to see ads for great products that have no relevance to your needs and cap it all off with a fascinating news story written in a language you don’t speak.

Okay, some of those examples might be a bit extreme, but if you’re worried about Facebook – or anyone else – using data about you to tailor content to your needs, then you’ve been living under that rock for the last decade!

Data collection and usage is nothing new, has been going on forever, and will continue. It goes WAY beyond Facebook…it’s banks, credit card companies, retailers, EVERYONE. Once your data is out there, it’s fair game. If you don’t like that Facebook is using your data in a host of ways to customize your experience with the site, then of course you can leave Facebook. But you’d better be ready to stop using credit cards, stop using Gmail or Google, turn off your TV, and maybe just cancel that high-speed internet connection, just to be safe… and don’t forget about that phone. AND remember… it’s the marketers who ere “using” the data to sell you stuff, not the platforms collecting it. You really only have two choices: you can either unplug completely or be conscious of the data you provide and how it’s used.

Want a Personalized Online Experience? Then Sharing Data Is a Fact of Life

If you read a website’s privacy policy or terms of service, you can often get a pretty good idea of what they’ll do with your information. Even if you don’t read a word, it’s safe to say that most online organizations will be collecting the data that you provide and putting it to work. They may sell it to a third party or keep it in-house and use it to shape your experience with their website… this has been going on since the first credit card were issued in the 50’s.

Now, think about all the information that you provide when you create a profile on a major social channel like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. You think they’re not going to use that information in some way? Of course, they are! That’s why, when you log in, you’re going to see different stories, ads, and posts than someone else in your network. Over time, you might even see different stuff than you did in the past, as your interests, opinions, and outlook change.

Like many “new” things in the digital age, the concept of using data to influence the customer experience is really nothing new. Marketers have been doing it for many, many years with case studies, testing, focus groups, and surveys. There’s a difference in how much information we’re providing to media organizations, businesses, and marketers (nd the value we receive in return), but the idea behind that data collection is nothing new.

Proceed with Caution, but Proceed

The biggest problem with data is protecting it—which is a constantly evolving effort. That’s not going to change, so you need to be aware of what’s going on and be careful with where and how you share information. The digital age is moving forward, and I still want to protect my data as much as I can, even if protecting it entirely is impossible. I try to be careful, but I’m not going to live under a rock. For me, the positives of providing that data outweigh the negatives. Aside from the fact that I often like using the websites that require me to provide data, I love the concept of being presented with content that I want to see. I want to see ads for products I might actually use, and stories about topics that really matter to me. It may require sacrificing some privacy, but at least big data does have its share of benefits, too.

The bottom line—the sky isn’t really falling. Change is inevitable, and you can’t wish it all away and hide under a rock. Knowledge is power! The challenge is to always be looking to the future. Stay on top of today’s changes so you can benefit from them, and use new technologies to protect yourself as things move forward. #NoLetUp!

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