Inconsiderately Polite

College Students' Views on Etiquette Online

Netiquette in Your Daily Life

What has been the point of all these netiquette themed posts? Why is it important to our blog readers?

Well, my friends, the list goes on and on. Many of my fellow writers for this blog have discussed netiquette and Social Media and how important it is to act properly by following the guidelines of proper internet etiquette. They have also blogged about how important it is for children to know how to act, how companies do not follow proper etiquette, and many other interesting etiquette based issues ( check out their posts if you have not already ). Recently I have discussed why practicing proper netiquette in your daily life can help protect you and your information from cyber criminals. Well, recently for class we had to read an article by Charles Duhigg, titled “How Companies Learn Your Secrets,” and it got me thinking- who are the real cyber criminals?

Not wanting to mislead any of my readers, I decided to do my last netiquette blog topic on how more than just criminals use the information you put out there using Web 2.0 tools. I thought this was important because this is something that everyone participates in daily AND it can happen to anyone, so why not try to help if I can?

Duhigg’s article focuses on the issue of companies using records of what you buy, what credit cards you use, surveys you fill, and the list seems never ending. Any interaction you have had with a company, his example was Target, can be documented by that company and filed away. Companies do this to create a profile so they can target you for certain items. Duhigg quoted a Target statiscian, Andrew Pole, saying ” “If you use a credit card or a coupon, or fill out a survey, or mail in a refund, or call the customer help line, or open an e-mail we’ve sent you or visit our Web site, we’ll record it and link it to your Guest ID,” Pole said. “We want to know everything we can” (1). A little scary, don’t you think!?

Well I certainly do. I was taken aback while reading this entire article (I highly suggest you read it for yourself) because I never knew these profiles and guest ID numbers existed. I felt a little violated. As I continued to read on, I learned that companies can also buy or sell information about you!

This article made me realize why practicing proper online netiquette is so important. Maybe getting extra coupons for something you buy frequently is not so bad, but it is sill a scary thought that an entire profile about your life is floating around cyber space for anyone to use, buy or steal. While researching netiquette, I learned two of the main rules are to be conservative and use discretion with the information you put out there. I think it is important for people using the internet to know these rules and apply them to their lives, as well as children who soon will be using the internet.

Obviously I think all netiquette rules are important, but after doing research for the past four weeks I feel these two are some of the most overlooked rules but some of the most important ones. Duhigg’s article really shocked and worried me because I now know how little control I have over the information I have put out there, so I also have no control over who gets to see it. If there is one thing I have learned from this topic of etiquette, it is that every day I must be careful with what I say and what information I provide, because in reality I never know who is seeing it!

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Can We Teach Companies Some Etiquette?

Let’s face it: almost all of us has stalked somebody’s facebook/twitter/blog before. Yet most of us don’t log every single thing they do, save all of their pictures, note what they click on, and go into their browsing history in an effort to collect private information. This, to put it lightly, would be a giant violation of online etiquette. If you found out one of your acquaintances on facebook was doing that to you, you’d probably feel pretty creeped out. If it was something that kept happening over and over again, and you were powerless to stop it, you might even quit going on the computer altogether. Yet, this is what corporations are doing to you on a daily basis.

Charles Duhigg wrote about this very thing in his article, “How Companies Learn Your Secrets.” He focuses mostly on Target, and how the company wanted to figure out a way to figure out women were pregnant without actually being told. Most of our shopping habits are pretty set in stone, but certain life-changing events, especially the birth of a child, can get people to change where they shop. Target knew that if they could grab expecting parents, they would have them for years to come, and, most importantly, get a lot more of their money. So they hired Andrew Pole to help them figure it out. And he did. He was able to determine through what customers bought if they were pregnant. It’s great for business, but unnerving for us. The sick part of it? Target knew that pregnant women would be creeped out if they just sent a bunch of coupons for baby stuff when they hadn’t told Target, or even anyone else, that they were pregnant. Duhigg even mentioned an example where a father called the manager of his local Target enraged, yelling about how they were sending his daughter coupons for cribs and diapers. Were they trying to encourage her to get pregnant? But as it turns out, the daughter was actually pregnant and hadn’t told him yet. The father was obviously upset, but I think we need to look at it another way: that poor girl obviously wasn’t ready to tell people she was pregnant, but she was forced to because Target had to send her coupons. If anyone else forced her to do that, we would call it what it is: rude and unacceptable.

But, to their credit, Target knew that sending pregnant women coupons would be kinda scary, so instead, they sent the coupons mixed in with a bunch of random other stuff. This way, we see stuff we’ll find useful, and not know the ridiculous amount of information they know about us, we shop there, they win. And it’s not like it’s just Target–it’s everyone. Each website we go on, and many that we don’t, track everything that we do and use it for their own purposes. A lot of people don’t care too much, but as I stated in the beginning, imagine if it was someone you knew? What make’s that somehow more weird?

 

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The New Age of Technology and Etiquette

This week I read an article called “How Companies Learn Your Secrets” by Charles Duhigg, which looks at how companies can learn your shopping habits by examining routines and buying habits.  He goes on to talk about  how it is hard to change a person’s shopping patterns once they are set, but if you catch a person at the right moment, like when someone is having a baby, they are more vulnerable to change.  Andrew Pole, a statistician, was hired by Target to do analysis into shopping patterns of consumers in order, “to analyze all the cue-routine-reward loops among shoppers and help the company figure out how to exploit them.”  He took particular focus into targeting women who were expecting a baby.  After accumulating data, he noticed certain shopping patterns emerging, which all came from the women’s registries or from something called a Guest ID.

Everyone has a Guest ID number, which shows what you have bought in the past at a certain store and allows for companies to send certain coupons based on what you have bought in the past.  Companies know that once your shopping patterns and routines are set you are unlikely to change them, which makes it easy to use the Guest ID and send coupons based on things you are likely to buy again.  Duhigg also mentions that, “linked to your Guest ID is demographic information like your age, how long it takes you to drive to the store, your estimated salary, whether you’ve moved recently, what credit cards you carry in your wallet and what Web sites you visit.”  Is this going overboard and breaking the rules of etiquette associated with technology?  I thought that this concept was interesting and made me think about etiquette rules that should be used with technology.  If companies can use technology to access this type of information and analyze shopping patterns, what else will they be able to do?

It is amazing to think how technology has allowed for such data to be recorded, and then to be used in a way that creeps into our lives un-expectantly.  So, is it proper etiquette that companies can do such a thing as use a Guest ID?  I think that a lot of people are not even aware of this happening to them.  While, some might feel exploited, others may say that it is helpful because they get coupons for the things they want and will buy each month.  I think that this shows the power of technology, and how much it has grown over the last decades.

Throughout this blog, I have been looking at technology and etiquette, which is now referred to as “netiquette.”  It seems like “netiquette” will only continue to be a growing issue.  I mean if companies can access our shopping habits, what else will they be able to do in the future?  Look at Facebook and its ads.  The ads on the side of the screen are put there because they are targeted towards the things you like, and what kind of things you post on your wall.

The bigger question I think is:  what else will technology allow us to access and what new “netiquette” rules will come into practice?  While this all may seem like people are trying to creep into our lives, it is a part of the world now that has been brought on with the increased and advanced use of technology.  I think that it is important for companies and online site to keep etiquette, or “netiquette,” rules in mind because it will allow for consumers to keep buying products, (while not feeling like they are being too violated) and the companies to keep customers coming back to buy more.

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Inconsiderately Polite

College Students' Views on Etiquette Online

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