Agenda 2-5 – Raafia Ahmed

Research question/argument

I want my capstone project to focus on the way individuals use the internet, how every key stroke, click, and page visited is tracked, and how companies use that information to profit off of it. I want to focus on three big companies that have the largest digital presence today: Google, Facbook, and Amazon. I also want to discuss how these companies work together in order to achieve profit goals by not only selling private information to advertisers, but using this information for their own benefit as well. For example, I can Google information about a flight that I am considering. After exiting out of it, and going on to Facebook for leisure, I may see an ad for that same flight agency, enticing me to purchase those flight tickets I had not bought yet. Or another example, when I purchase something from Amazon, I may receive an email right away that offers me items I may be interested in. This information is collected and stored from millions of Amazon users into their vast database systems. Amazon uses this information for its own benefit, as do many other companies.

I want to be able to show readers that although there are many privacy statements enacted, it is a fact that these companies would not be able to run without our information. And our information doesn’t have to be our name; it is really what we click on, what we purchase, etc. I want to show readers that this has two sides; it is a good thing because in the end, we are getting a free service, and at times we even like these suggestions. It is also something users should be wary about because in the end, we are being tracked and watched. I want my project to be able to find out how different people get pushed ads differently and how much information really does get collected for these companies.

What are your data and how are you collecting it?

The information I can gather to answer how different people get different ads can be through surveys handed out to numerous people. I can ask these people to go on Facebook for the first time in the day and report the first ad they see on the right side of their page. I would also ask them to go into their search history and report the last five items they searched right before going onto Facebook. I will most likely use an anonymous survey monkey to send out and collect the results. In order to become an expert on my topic, I need to do a lot of research on these three companies, and dissect their terms and conditions, and understand how they use analytics to target ads to individuals. I plan to use the many outlets I have at my hands for research, from using Google Scholar and Rutgers online repository, to books and journals available at libraries. I will know once I have answered my questions, when I am sufficiently able to provide evidences and proofs of my findings. In my project, when I talk about companies, I would be mainly referring to Google, Facebook, and Amazon. When speaking about users, I would be focusing on the young adult on the internet (age not specified yet), mainly because it is the most relatable age range to me, and therefore making it easier to discuss about.

Project presentation details

I plan on incorporating my data into a project by using graphs and charts to show the types of information that gets tracked for the specific websites I chose. I intend to have these visuals embedded into a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation. I would also try to find relatable videos that I can incorporate into my presentation as well so that it can add to the mix of media I would use to get my points across to my audience. My target audience will be my classmates, and therefore I need to make it suitable for 19-22 year olds (roughly). It needs to have enough content to keep my audience interested, and also entertained in my opinion. I believe the best way to grab someone’s attention during a presentation is through a bit of humor, so I would somehow want to incorporate that into my presentation. My professor is also a part of my target audience, so in turn I would also have to make sure that my project remains tasteful and covers all the points that need to be covered.

Questions

Are there other websites I could talk about for my project aside from Google, Amazon, and Facebook? Should I focus on less websites? More?

Should I focus on one side of the situation (websites vs. internet user) or is it good that I will talk about both sides in my project?

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6 thoughts on “Agenda 2-5 – Raafia Ahmed

  1. I am really interested in your topic because I have come across the same situation whenever I am surfing the Internet. It reminds me what I have learned from my previous class called structure of information and the concept of “Google algorithm”. Besides Google, Amazon and Facebook, you can also talk about Twitter. Since both Twitter and Facebook are social networking sites, it might be better if you can compare the differences between these two sites.
    I think it is good to talk about both sides in your project because it is very important to see the interactions between the websites and the internet users.

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  2. If you’re doing a survey to collect your data, in terms of having people see what ads are targeting them, maybe you should suggest to them clearing their search history, and for a week based off of the websites they visit, see what ads they’re getting by the end of the week. Sort of the reset will help get a clear idea of initial targeting.

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  3. Aside from focusing on websites like google, amazon, and facebook – I think it would be particularly interesting to focus in on a topic such as behavioral advertising. Rather then zeroing in on specific websites for your entire project, a subject such as behavioral advertising (also known as ‘targeted advertising’) would be great because it would give your audience some knowledge on internet tracking in and of itself. Thats what behavioral advertising is – it uses a users recent searches, purchase history, browser history, and so forth through the use of tracking and cookies to send them targeted advertisements. For example, have you ever searched up a specific pair of diamond earrings? For a particular pair of sneakers maybe? And then shortly after conducting that search if you look at the side or top of your page … you probably began to get bombarded with jewelry advertisements and/or nike advertisements. Isn’t that weird? You’r every move is being tracked on the internet .. this can also give rise to a conversation of how websites should maybe give users the option to ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’ of this tracking .. a topic such as this could give you ample ideas to grow from.

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  4. I wouldn’t pick more websites to talk about. I think you have a good number right now or even less would be better. I know having different sites to compare could help your research but I also think there is much than can be said just from one site. Maybe consider narrowing down your question and focusing on one site.

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  5. I would also consider talking about Youtube. Now that Youtube is a social phenomenon, more and more information is being stored. Also, I would go with talking about both sides of your project. The more connections you can build between these websites and us, the users who go on them daily, the better your argument will be.

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