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Alexis C. Madrigal’s “I’m Being Followed” explores the unknown world of data collection through browsing. From visiting various sites each day, every click increases a person’s vulnerability of having their personal information collected and used in ways that are still yet to be discovered. Madrigal supports his claim of invasion of privacy through using first-hand experiences, story-telling, logos, and evidence from credible sources, to emphasize the many possible effects companies may imply on tracking people online.
Nowadays, everything we do online, whether it’s watching cat videos or shopping, is being recorded onto a database network. Personal information collected, as Madrigal claims, are used by companies that target ads in which “you’re statistically more likely to click (Madrigal, I’m Being Followed).” Companies make money with advertisements directed at the consumer’s desires, however, it is still yet unknown whether it is a harmful or a harmless phenomenon – since we don’t know what’s going to happen with what’s being collected. Madrigal’s previous statements brings the audiences to think deeply; what if the data collected leads the world to a downfall, maybe another world war. Or what if the data collected brings world peace, as it could solve potential crimes. It is obvious that people are aware to a certain extent that they’re being monitored online, however, they tend to be ignorant to the possible dangers this monitoring could lead to. Madrigal discussed what’s on the other side of the screen, educating his audience as of what’s behind that one ad that pops up right after you thought of exactly what it’s advertising. He talked about the many companies that monitored his actions on the internet, such as “Adnetik” and “AdRoll,” showing his audience that he too goes through these things. So, for the skeptics out there in need to wake up, he lists the site he used to discover what companies have been tracking him; “Collusion.” As a result, Madrigal mentions that “the norms established to improve how often people click ads may end up determining who you are when viewed by a bank or a romantic partner, or a retailer who sells shoes (Madrigal, I’m Being Followed.)” In this case, he is giving his audience a heads up to stay aware of the sites they visit, because unknowingly, people tend to create many online “social markers;” many identities of someone. To educate his audience to the potential risks of being the prey of the internet, his selective writing style had its effects.
To begin, Madrigal’s word choice made the text easy to follow, allowing it to be understandable to a wider audience. Through his diction, he was able to achieve a friendly-like dialect, creating a less stressful atmosphere to a serious subject; making it almost as if he is telling a story. He even adds humor at the beginning of his text as he created a scenario of opening your browser, and with a blink of an eye, the “data from this single visit was sent to 10 different companies (Madrigal, I’m Being Followed).” As well as his title, it almost has a sarcastic tone to it, making it seem normal that 104 companies are tracking millions of people on the web. In addition to his word choice, sometimes people do not know how to elaborate their feeling towards certain subjects, so as of this, the feeling of being watched online, as Madrigal mentions, people tend to describe it as “creepy,” and so does he.
To give his work credibility, he gave examples of his first-hand experiences, with the many companies he discovered were tracking him within the span of 36 hours. He followed that with another piece of evidence showing his audience that, they can too, get information on which companies are tracking them based on the websites they visit; Collusion. He gives many factual and philosophical examples that support his claim, like when he mentions that companies record your information through your “Behavioral, Demographic, Geographic, and Lookalike” factors in your everyday searches. Also, his comparison between Online vs. Traditional advertisements gives his audience another reason to agree with his claim, in which Traditional ads tend to have publications that gather certain types of audiences, so the advertiser buys the publication to reach the intended audience. What the online ads lack is publication, they only buy audiences through online tracking; it lacks art. His idea of “dropping cookies” could be a symbol that represents us being brainwashed. People love cookies. If they eat one, they will eat another, and another. Just like the ads that pop up on one’s screen, if you click on one, you will click on another, and another. People are being brainwashed on what the online world wants to make of them.
Overall, Madrigal’s text “I’m being Followed” elaborately describes the risks of our identities being taken advantage of in the online world. With his approach to his audience, he was able to achieve a friendly-like tone to lessen the tension of the text’s atmosphere, used a selective word choice relating himself to others, and first-hand evidence as well as other credible sources to prove his claim. As to his overall text, he did not have too much information, neither too little, he had the right amount to lure in his audience without boring them nor pressuring them. I loved how he indirectly tells the future generations to find a solution to this privacy issue in his concluding paragraph. He kept his information balanced between hard facts and his humor, which I found very helpful with reading such texts
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