Analog Equivalent Rights (13/21): Our digital children are tracked not just in everything they buy, but in what they DON’T buy

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We’ve seen how our digital children’s privacy is violated in everything they buy with cash or credit, in a way our analog parents would have balked at. But even worse: our digital children’s privacy is also violated by tracking what they don’t buy — either actively decline or just plain walk away from.

Amazon just opened its first “Amazon Go” store, where you just pick things into a bag and leave, without ever going through a checkout process. As part of the introduction of this concept, Amazon points out that you can pick something off the shelves, at which point it’ll register in your purchase — and change your mind and put it back, at which point you’ll be registered and logged as having not purchased the item.

Sure, you’re not paying for something you changed your mind about, which is the point of the video presentation. But it’s not just about the deduction from your total amount to pay: Amazon also knows you considered buying it and eventually didn’t, and will be using that data.

Our digital children are tracked this way on a daily basis, if not an hourly basis. Our analog parents never were.

When we’re shopping for anything online, there are even simple plugins for the most common merchant solutions with the business terms “funnel analysis” — where in the so-called “purchase funnel” our digital children choose to leave the process of purchasing something — or “cart abandonment analysis”.

We can’t even simply walk away from something anymore without it being recorded, logged, and cataloged for later use against us.

But so-called “cart abandonment” is only one part of the bigger issue of tracking what we’re interested in in the age of our digital children, but didn’t buy. There is no shortage of people today who would swear they were just discussing a very specific type of product with their phone present (say, “black leather skirts”) and all of a sudden, advertising for that very specific type of product would pop up all over Facebook and/or Amazon ads. Is this really due to some company listening for keywords through the phone? Maybe, maybe not. All we know since Snowden is that if it’s technically possible to invade privacy, it is already happening.

(We have to assume here these people still need to learn how to install a simple adblocker. But still.)

At the worst ad-dense places, like (but not limited to) airports, there are eyeball trackers to find out which ads you look at. They don’t yet change to match your interests, as per Minority Report, but that’s already present on your phone and on your desktop, and so wouldn’t be foreign to see in public soon, either.

In the world of our analog parents, we weren’t registered and tracked when we bought something.

In the world of our digital children, we’re registered and tracked even when we don’t buy something.

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This article was previously published at Private Internet Access..

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He works as Head of Privacy at the no-log VPN provider Private Internet Access; with his other 40 hours, he's developing an enterprise grade bitcoin wallet and HR system for activism.

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Discussion

  1. Anonymous

    ‘Our digital children’ can’t think and decide for themselves?

  2. Anna

    Hello !! Amazon Go, the brand-new no-cash, no-checkout convenience store in Seattle. They created the world’s most advanced shopping technology.

  3. Deffa

    Very valid points. The future is scary and bright!

  4. Lorne

    Read your 2011 article on bitcoin …. curious, did you keep it all and are you a billionaire now? =)

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