Imagine that the coffee shop you visited today knew that you would leave a Yelp review.
What would happen? Maybe they’d treat you well, an extra dose of courtesy or maybe a little more food. They might offer you a brownie for free at the end of the day or something, since they’re getting rid of them later anyways. Any number of small details could make a difference– and tip your 3-star review into a 4-star one. Little things make a big difference.
Maybe this is what Google means when they say “Everything is better when it knows who I am.” If you’re a prolific sharer, you get a better deal, or they know how you like your espresso, so your experience is just a little better than usual. They know your preferences. This is the direction foursquare is going– they know when I share, so they know that I’m valuable.
But there’s another side to this too. Right now, my mobile phone company knows how much I spend, so it knows how to treat me. If I’m only spending $30/month, it knows I’m of little value– in other words, everytime I call, I’m telling them “Ignoring me will cause you little to no dip in profitability.”
They know this because they know me. Is this what Google means, too?
What if everyone knew that I would make very little difference to their bottom line? If I choose not to share, or don’t know how to, I become less significant. There is a real cost to opting out of the system, and that cost becomes greater as everyone else gets more known, especially through the kind of passive sharing Google takes part in. This will get more intense as they get more of your data– GPS info through the Nexus One, never mind what we’re curious about on an everyday basis, etc.
Every piece of information a company gains about us is also a way to segment us– valuable vs. not-valuable. That’s why invisible means impotent. And by definition, most people will be non-valuable, just like people with less influence can’t get into cool parties.
“Do you know who I am???”
“Actually no, I don’t.”
How do you feel about this? I mean, it’s kind of inevitable, so does it even matter how we feel? Should we just accept that in some places, what we think doesn’t matter?
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