The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Data Mining: The Internet’s Way of Knowing Us Better Than We Know Ourselves

After a long day filled with unfamiliar Spanish vocab and seemingly endless Chemistry questions, I decide to reward myself by opening up a new tab to my most visited webpage: Facebook. I quickly scroll through my friends’ most recent uploads, my interest steadily declining. As my newsfeed takes me from one album to the next, I repeatedly encounter personalized ads designed to catch my attention at exactly the right moment. Online shopping pages with clothes I had once considered screamed for my attention as quizzes relevant to my life’s biggest decisions entitled “What type of surgeon should you be?” result in me being steered to another website. How did Facebook know I wanted to be a doctor? I had only decided this a few short weeks ago myself. I shrug my shoulders and finish my quiz, embracing the fact that Internet seemed to know me better than I knew myself.

Data mining has become one of the most valuable techniques of the Internet today, taking your personal information and using “behavioral surveillance…to predict, with amazing accuracy, the propensity for a person’s behavior” (Morris). In Morris’s article entitled Mining Student Data Could Save Lives, he argues for that mining student data by accessing their personal searches and documents could be used as a safety technique to help prevent future massacres such as the 2007 Virginia Tech case. I found this article uniquely compelling because of the relevancy it has in my life. As an active Facebook user myself, I am constantly prone to this data mining, often times without my knowledge. I hope that writing this essay will allow me to better understand data mining and how it personally affects me, as well as form an opinion on how much of your personal data I believe college campuses deserve to access.


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1 Comment

  1. Derek

    Excellent opening! I like your use of personal narrative to lead into and connect with the essay topic.

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