Big Brother IS watching you #LAK12

I suppose I’ve been a bit naive to assume that the sorts of analyses that Amazon employs are the ultimate in positively exploiting customer information and behaviour. I guess I should have been alerted by the number of times that ads have popped up on my screen when I’m running a Google search. My previous reaction to seeing a promotion for a product that I’d run a search for at some time before was ‘hey, that’s clever!’ Now, having read ‘Untangling the social web’ as part of the #LAK12 mooc on learning analytics, I’m beginning to see it all in a whole new light.

It seems that there are a whole team of undercover analysts out there tracking our every move. From identifying who the key players are in a social circle to reviewing our emails to track employee performance and analysing our social networks to assess whether we’re likely to be attempting some kind of criminal activity. The range of activities and the networks that we engage with are being increasingly used to either predict our next move or to make us the puppets of organisations wanting us to promote their services for them.

And it seems that it won’t be just the business world that tap into using analytics as a way of observing and controlling our moves. Governments and intelligence agencies are beginning to turn to influencers within societies to predict, contain and control the behaviours of key groups and activists. The article gives some insightful examples into how this is already being done to track and shape events such as political uprisings, food production, slum growth and a wide range of other activities which can be shaped by human behaviours.

One of the accusations levied at our increasing use and dependencies on technologies is that we’re cutting ourselves off from each other more and more and isolating ourselves from the rest of the world. Maybe not. Maybe we’re doing just the opposite. For each keystroke and every call that we make, someone somewhere learns just that little bit more about us.

On a positive note, Google has me tagged as a younger woman than I really am. Bless you, Google!

About sharonslade

Dr Sharon Slade is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Business and Law at the Open University in the UK working to support both tutors and students on Open University distance learning modules and programmes. Her research interests encompass ethical issues in learning analytics and online learning and tuition. Project work includes the development of a student support framework to improve retention and progression and the development of a university wide tool for tracking students and triggering relevant and targeted interventions. She led the development of new policy around the ethical use of learning analytics within the Open University, UK.
This entry was posted in internet and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Big Brother IS watching you #LAK12

  1. eLiz says:

    Not just keystrokes but every call indeed as tonight’s news about 02 sharing its customers’ mobile phone numbers with the web sites that they visit.

  2. Good points Sharon. I think it will not be wrong to start talking about “the age of surveillance” – not only is the surveillance more pervasive and increasingly invasive; the data is often then sold to the highest bidder. After George Siemens visited my institution last year I became much more aware of what I share with whom and why. I have since deleted my Facebook profile and now use social media for my professional interests. If “they” (whoever they are) track me, then let me give them something to track!

    For a wonderful exploration of how the Internet increasingly monitor and shape us, see “The filter bubble: What the internet is hiding from you” (Parisier 2011) (

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s