From Cereal To Suicide: Buzzfeed’s Ability To Collect Info Might Make It The Creepiest Site On The Internet

Blogger Dan Barker is on to something here. His latest post to Barker.co.uk has him questioning Buzzfeed’s intent with their “harmless quizzes.” It’s all potentially kind of sinister.Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 10.51.36 AM

According to Barker, Buzzfeed is recording everything about you — not uncommon with websites, many keep cookies on how many times you visit, your clicking habits … that’s fairly common now in this edge-of-Orwellian society we now find ourselves in. Most of us seem to like it because it makes for easier online shopping — we’re simple like that. But Buzzfeed has the capability to take it to a whole other degree. Nestled in with their harmless quizzes about what kind of breakfast cereal mascot you’d be are quizzes like the one below, documenting how many times you’ve considered suicide, your comfort level with your gender and whether you’ve been raped. And they’re apparently recording all of it, giving them the ability to build a total profile about you. WTF?!

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Now before we started getting too off-the-handle, I figured we should check in with Buzzfeed — due diligence and all that reporter stuff. It turns out I didn’t have to. A Buzzfeed flack had already responded in the comments section of Barker’s site, clarifying their position. Dao Nguyen, who runs Data & Growth at Buzzfeed posted, “I noticed that you added this caveat: ‘I’m going to caveat that I’m not 100% sure they’re recording that it is ‘me’ browsing the site (ie. that they’re able to link the data they’re recording in Google Analytics about my activity on the site back to my email address and other personally identifiable information).’ This caveat is important because we do not in fact record that it is ‘you’ browsing the site.”

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See, there is this wonderful legal notion that companies tend to employ though: omission. When someone says “We do not in fact record that it is ‘you’ browsing the site,” that might be factually true. But it doesn’t mean that nobody is recording the site information. NMR was in on an interview with Vsauce3 recently and he admitted that the stuff he’d found out about companies like the one in question caused him to cover his webcam when it wasn’t supposed to be in use. Yikes.

I agree that this all sounds like nutty conspiracy theory garbage, but then again, sites like WikiLeaks are doing a pretty good job of showing it’s all not as crazy as we hope.
Click accordingly from now on.

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