Leaving An Online Trail

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Finding that perfect item online isn’t always as easy as it is to browse your options.

Sometimes it takes a little help from the World Wide Web which is always looking for ways to connect buys and sellers.

Tucked away in downtown Terre Haute along north Fifth Street is a place for all of your richest desires. That is, if you love chocolate.

“I still get people almost daily I didn’t even know this place was here, I was just walking by and I came in,” manager of Brooke’s Candy Store Seth Vicars said.

That’s why Brooke’s Candy Store took to social media, so if you’re not necessarily looking for them, they’re still looking for you. And business is booming. Vicars credits a lot of that success to social media.

“Ninety percent of the people who come in here who didn’t know about us before, ‘I saw it on Facebook,'” Vicars said.

The candy shop pays for the site to match up interests and key words from Facebook users like….

“Cooking or gluten free or baking or chocolate.”

“It’s awesome, you can reach whoever you want, people are on their phones all day long. It’s like a newspaper… The content never runs out, so you can put an ad on there and it will just keep passing their faces all day long,” Vicars said.

But many online ads aren’t as innocent as a chocolate truffle. We talked to an expert at Rose-Hulman to see just how concise the World Wide Web can get with your online searches.

“Big data has changed the way advertisements have worked and it’s immensely changed the way things are sold,” Sid Stamm said.

“These companies have relationships with other websites so as soon as you visit one store, you go to another store and maybe they share information.”

Professor of Computer Sciences Sid Stamm demonstrates just how quickly your online searches connect with other sites. You’ll see that his search at Cars.com instantly shows up on a site tracking his usage.

“Oh, here’s Cars.com, and all of the sites that they are obtaining data from or sending data to.”

And there’s a list of companies who strictly buy and sell that data to promote online ads. Stamm says it varies from store to store if tracking online data helps boost purchases.

“So I think we have a lot to learn about what we can do with this data, and in the meantime it’s a little unseen what’s actually going to happen, is it good is it bad is it safe, nobody really knows yet,” Stamm said.

As far as business for Brooke’s Candy Store goes…

“It’s been really well it’s been awesome,” Vicars said.

You can filter your web browsers not to track your data, if it’s a problem for you. Professor Sid Stamm says some companies will comply with the request, others might not. It’s a configuration in your privacy preferences called “do not track.”
 

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