What’s your digital demographic portrait look like?

Amazon and Twitter announced today that you will now be able to add items to your Amazon wish list directly from Twitter. Assuming the item being twitted about is an Amazon product you can add it to your cart by simply tweeting back #AmazonCart (in the U.K. #AmazonBasket).

The shortcut doesn’t initiate the purchase – you still have to log into your Amazon account and go through the normal checkout process – all it does is add the item to your cart (you can remove the item if you change your mind). You also have to connect your Twitter and Amazon accounts in order for this to work.

Of course anyone following the conversation will also see that you’re interested in that product and it will linger on your Twitter timeline unless you set your account to private.

Having everything connected seems to be the big trend these days but I wonder if this is such a good idea. When we link all our services together it may be convenient for some things but every time we connect one service to another both services learn a little bit more about us.

Sure, it is fascinating sometimes when your phone somehow magically shows portraits of people sucked from your Facebook friends list or when NetFlix suggests movies that you never heard of but actually do seem interesting or when Google’s home page wishes you a happy birthday (which is actually a little creepy). But I’m not so sure I want that level of personalization.

I realize that these companies aren’t necessarily collecting and sharing personal information about individuals, rather, they are building digital demographic portraits of all of us. The more bits and pieces they can gather, the more accurate the portraits become and, theoretically, the more effectively someone can market to us.

Of course, the more services we have linked to one another the more likely it is that some day we’re going to have a catastrophic domino effect meltdown if one of those services is compromised by a cyber attack. Criminals will be able to get an address here, a name there, a password, a phone number, a list of stores where we shop, what we tend to buy, and by tying everything back to our phones or tablets they will be able to find out when we are home or when we are out and about.

That’s a lot of information to entrust to other folks. No one piece of data might be all that damaging but when you put everything together it creates a pretty scary, ready-made description of us and our movements. Criminals won’t have to ‘case’ our houses – that work is already being done for them.

Maybe I’m just being overly paranoid. Maybe having everything connected is a good thing. And maybe all those hackers out there will wake up tomorrow and decide to trade in their computers for knitting needles.

Guy Wright

Guy Wright has been covering the technology space since the days when computers had cranks and networks were steam powered. He has been a writer and editor for more years then he cares to admit.


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