Facebook and Google, Show Us Your Ad Data

Getting to know you.

Photograph: Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images

The internet, led by the tech giants Amazon, Facebook and Google, has been great at connecting us with products. It has been less good, however, at connecting us as a polity. It’s time we started imagining what an internet optimized for the citizen would look like.

I’m a plus-sized woman, and when I was pregnant with my first son in 1999, finding maternity clothes was a pain. The maternity shops didn’t have my size, and the plus-size shops didn’t sell maternity clothes. By the time I was pregnant with my third son in 2008, the internet offered all I needed — very cheaply and with quick delivery.

We’ve made a trade. In exchange for commercial surveillance and data collection, we have the world’s best at-home mall. And just as my friends and I used to socialize at the mall when we were teenagers, nowadays we socialize online in commercial spaces like Facebook and Twitter. The stores around us, informed by our digital profiles, magically transform to meet our needs and desires. We have the tailored internet experience.