This essay by Isaac Zarate won Third Place in the Hare & Bell 2022 Writing Contest.


It is 2022, and for many, the concept of data tracking is nothing new. Perhaps you have heard that same story from friends and family about how companies like Facebook and Google use data to track your behavior. Maybe you have had that funny coincidence where you post about your new workout routine and suddenly find yourself inundated with ads for new exercise equipment. Whatever the case may be, this is not that fleeting remark about how tech giants are looming over our shoulders. Neither is this a technical dissection of what data is. Instead, this is a dispassionate and simplified analysis of the other side of data that lies behind the concerns of many being raised today. Read on knowing that this analysis is truly one half of the topic of data, not out of bias but because this side of the topic has yet to be critically conveyed in a manner that is digestible enough for consumers of all backgrounds. The goal of this essay is to bridge that gap, providing an explanation to the rationale of such concerns, and informing you of the role your data plays in today’s digital climate. This essay will not assume value judgements or conclude what is taking place is right or wrong; the question of ethics and legality is up to you. If, however, in the end, you are motivated to make a change, some potential options will be listed at the end of this essay. Lastly, if you have nothing to hide or do not use mainstream social media, don’t click away, you may find more relevance in this essay than you might have expected.