Connected: Tailed or tailored?

Have you ever noticed the ads on the side of your Facebook page? Have you ever noticed how relevant they are to you?

By Matthew O'Driscoll

Next time you log in to update your status take a look. Some of the ads are driven by data that Facebook collects from your profile, age, gender, location but others go further than that. 

Facebook and other sites use cookies, pixel tags and local storage to decide on what ads to farm up to you. If you’ve been looking at that new Kitchen Wiz 3000 on Amazon, there’s a good chance that will show up on your Facebook page in the sidebar sooner rather than later.

Talking of Amazon, isn’t it scary how accurate their recommendations are? Buy your mother a bottle of perfume and some flowers for her birthday and you’ll be forever rewarded with ideas for future thoughtful gifts.

Of course, Amazon can get things hilariously wrong too. Buy Pascal Mercier’s Night Train to Lisbon and a random book on home brewing and you’ll get recommendations on the philosophical use of alcohol, alcohol and public policy, and alcohol substance abuse. You could just update your recommendations to improve the accuracy further but what would be the fun in that?

Amazon’s recommendations use product categorization, website tagging, cookies and a well-guarded algorithm to serve up items that you might be interested in buying in the future. Amazon is so confident in their system that they’ve touted an on-line shopping future where you’ll be sent items before you’ve even had chance to think to buy them. They’ve taken a patent out what they call “anticipatory” shipping.

Is this tailoring of your internet experience surveillance or consumerism gone mad? That’s up to you to decide but both of these examples show us that communication and websites are changing at a rapid pace, even at the PSA.

Our newly introduced website takes advantage of more sophisticated content tagging and also links back to our membership database when you are logged in to know more about you. 

In the past if you were a PSA member that identified as gay, Māori, female and interested in pay equity, you would have had to go to four separate pages on the PSA website to get information relevant to you and your interests. In the future, the PSA hopes to serve you a digest of your relevant news in one place. 

It’s not here yet, but we have started the ball rolling by introducing MyPSA. Logging in to MyPSA will give you information on your delegate, your collective agreement, news relevant to your workplace and location, and give you a chance to update your details if they have changed.

Rest assured that the PSA has a very strong policy on the use of members’ private information, so we won’t be introducing “anticipatory" shipping for the latest PSA tea towel.

We will however continue to change the way that we develop and deliver communications to you, making your contact with the union a more personal experience while still balancing your need to be part of the collective action.

Log in to MyPSA today be part of it.


This article is from the December 2014 issue of the PSA Journal. You can read back issues of the Journal by clicking here.