You’ve been through this routine before. You’re scrolling through social media or looking up something online, when suddenly you’re bombarded with ads related to an item you recently purchased or a topic you researched. As you’re probably well aware by now, companies are tracking your browsing and buying habits. Here, we’ll consider why businesses do this, the potential risks involved, and how you can connect with others without “virtual voyeurists” looking over your shoulder.

Why Are Companies Tracking Consumer Behavior?

Companies monitor online activities so they can align their marketing strategies with consumers’ preferences. Businesses use the information they gather to get to know current (and prospective) customers better and gain insight into how to improve their products and services. In fact, having access to consumer data is especially helpful for managers preparing to introduce new products. Not only can they gauge individuals’ preferences, they can better understand current cultural norms and societal trends.

In our fast-paced world where technology is always evolving, business owners and managers are under constant pressure to know how consumers respond to different products. They want to know the reasons behind consumers’ choices, too. In the race to keep pace with customers’ sometimes fickle preferences, monitoring our digital footprint helps companies consistently meet their goals.

However, companies aren’t just interested in how customers research different products and which ones they end up buying; they also want to learn about their after-purchase habits. Product reviews and surveys let businesses know whether they’ve met consumers’ expectations. By using big data to anticipate what customers want, companies can devise ways to meet consumer demand before their competitors do.

What are the Risks When Companies Can Access Your Information?

Of course, all this data collection and storage carries some risk, especially with the advent of the Internet of Things — the capability to connect multiple devices to each other via one platform. We have reason to be concerned about how companies obtain data, what they do with it, and what steps they take to protect it from hackers.

For most people, the first thing that comes to mind when they consider the dangers of corporate data collection is an invasion of our privacy, especially when companies sell our data to disreputable third parties, or fail to secure it altogether, making it accessible to cyber-criminals. Every few months, it seems, we see a news story warning us of yet another data breach. Although we try to protect our online accounts with passwords and security questions, we’re never really sure who can see our personal data. When companies have such an unprecedented ability to collect information about us, we have less control over whose hands it falls into.

In some cases, companies leverage big data for unethical purposes, such as manipulating or misleading consumers. For instance, social media has come under fire recently for publishing fake news and directing particular news stories to a target group of users.

Yet another challenge arises with data-collection: a company’s capacity to innovate. As businesses grow, they’re in a better position to offer their products at lower prices.  In the past, this tendency has led such companies to dominate the marketplace. But there was always room for a business with a new idea to come in and provide healthy competition. Now, however, much of that innovation is data-driven, and the largest corporations already have access to the most consumer data. This gives them the potential to create a monopoly if left unchecked, and possibly to have undue influence in the marketing and political spheres.

How Can I Protect Myself from Questionable Data-Collection?

Fortunately, solutions exist that allow you to connect with family and friends, without unwanted third parties hovering in the background. Go2s is an app that makes it possible to share information with your network without being bombarded with the traffic and noise you’re likely to find on other social media sites. We verify all users’ contact information when they sign up, and we keep that information secure so you don’t have to worry about other companies gaining access to it.

We’re people-driven rather than data-driven. We believe that you should be able to enjoy a social networking app without sacrificing your privacy. To discover how you can bring your community together via a safe, secure platform, create an account today.