It is well known how the Internet and the new digital technologies have rendered much fainter the boundary between public and private, and how this sudden exposition and visibility, to which more or less consciously we entrust ourselves, is being increasingly used toward ends which are at least controversial—it’s enough to think of the companies filling out veritable dossiers about their employees by monitoring their Facebook profile. But, at the end of the day, how much of us remains effectively entangled in the Internet’s web after our passage? And, most of all, who can access this huge amount of information?
The answer can significantly vary according to how and how much Internet is used, and to the privacy protection norms applied by one’s country.
In the US Joel Stein, a reporter of Time Magazine, discovered that digital marketing companies such as Alliance Data are able to go back up to the smallest purchase performed on the web—finding out, for example, that on October 10 2010 Joel spent 180 dollars to buy underwears. In Italy the privacy protection laws are more rigid, as explained by Riccardo Stagliano—a journalist writing for La Repubblica that recently conducted a research similar to that of Stein. But web listening companies operate also in the Bel Paese, listening—or maybe it would be better to say eavesdropping—and observing each little movement we make on the web, in order to be eventually able to draft the faithful profile of a potential customer.
Thus, in a short time, it is possible to deduce our political orientation, the books we read and the music we listen to, where we would like to spend our holiday, our favourite meals and even a supposed psychological profile—in addition to the registry data and the educational and professional career, retrievable from any social network. Obviously who more than any other has the chance to scrutinize our behaviours on the Internet, recomposing thus our identities, is Google. Because it is the most used search engine, and because the email service Gmail includes since long time a software—Google Ads Preferences—designed to provide the user with the advertisements more suited for him, on the basis of the emails he received and sent. Today Google is an instrument so rooted in our everyday life to make us forget how each research, communication, purchase occurring through the web always leaves a tile, which composes an elusive portrait of our identity. A portrait that we would barely recognize—but that somehow belongs to us.