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Thursday, November 24th, 2005, 4:44 pm

Newspapers and Spying

“How did a newspaper reveal so much about me…?”

SPYING provides information. Information is power. The simple implication is that spying grants an organisation extra power. Especially, it gives an organisation advantages over its competitors. For this very particular reason, search engines put an end to privacy over time. As a matter of fact, the Internet in general has exposed most of us at a certain level. Controversially enough, Google can finally analyse the behaviour of rival search engines as they possess statistics of many Web sites.

Search engines and information management authorities are not alone in this. What I see more and more of are signup requirements for reading on-line newspapers (the New York Times is a notable example). I am not speaking of paid subscriptions, but rather about identification. It is no longer a secret that sales of in-print newspapers decrease, if not slowly diminish. As previously said, one must evolve and this includes publishers. More and more people simply find greater convenience in reading news on their personal workstation. So how can publishers keep up and protect their revenue? Can spying provide a solution?

Newspapers and publishers might not like the use of network bandwidth, which even when accompanied by advertisement, does not give them the same touch with the readers. Moreover, newspapers become more susceptible to plagiarism (which is a simple copy & paste), frequently due to millions of bloggers, some of whom are immoral. I occasionally find a heavily-cited article in blogs and it is ranked higher than its origin, which stems in mainstream media. Needless to say, such articles are copied verbatim, in full, and neglect to link to the source. No wonder the media is afraid of blogs.

All in all, newspaper head towards targetted content and they attain to get full information about their readers. This way, content (e.g. articles), as well as commercials, can be tailored to individuals. By localising items and customising them to a person’s taste, the relevance and thus value rises. This all comes at the expense of the individual’s privacy, of course. It all depends on the ability to make assumptions and generalisations in the process of ‘profiling’ an individual reader. Since the reader enters personal details at the start, too much is known. The browser cookie sooner or later contains full personal information about the reader, as well as all the article s/he has read. Similar issues and can in fact be ascribed to Google’s cookie.

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