How online data is helping predict your next move

HARTFORD --  Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, went before lawmakers in Europe this week to address concerns about the social media site and the collection of user data.

Facebook has been at the center of recent questions and criticism about the data it stores after research firm, Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained that data and used it to target voters in the 2016 presidential election. However, Facebook isn’t the only site collecting valuable user information.

“We’re in an era where every search is something that gets recorded and logged somewhere,” said Tech Expert, Lon Siedman. Seidman operates a YouTube channel about the latest gadgets and once oversaw cyber security for a large tech company.

Seidman said, your information is being collected and stored in a digital file, every Google search, purchase, online connection, your location in maps, where you shop and pictures you like.

This is all part of your file, making it easier for companies to figure out who you are and more importantly, predict your next move.

“It’s more than what you look at. It’s more than what you type into the computer and transmit. It’s really about everything you do. It’s being logged and captured.”

This lucrative data is sought-after by many third parties looking to influence what you do and what you think.

UConn Psychology Professor, Dr. Sherry Pagoto, said we don’t realize how or when we’re being influenced because the lines are so blurred. Gone are the days of just clearly defined commercials or even online ads.

Now, there are articles and other posts being shared by friends, polls, pictures and memes being pushed out to target our emotions and get us to react.

“They know our brains encode emotional information. We’re more likely to remember that and pass it alone, even if we don’t remember specifically what the message was, we’ll just know, that was gross. That’s disgusting. That’s really funny or made me feel good,” said Dr. Pagoto.

Seidman said no matter the security settings you have in place, there’s no way to keep companies from tracking your activity because it’s billions of dollars worth of information too good to let go.

“The key to all of this stuff is big data. The more data you have, the more predictions you can begin making about behavior or potential outcomes,” said Seidman.