Access to Digital Information poses Risks and Benefits of Server-side and Client-side Personalization

According to research conducted by Muhammad Asif and John Krogstie in the Department of Computer and Information Science at Norwegian University, personalization is describes as "a controlled process of adaption of a service to achieve a particular goal by utilizing the user model and the context of use (Asif and Krogstie 1).” Although personalization provides user-specific content that appeals to individual tastes, privacy and data control are prominent concerns within our world of digital information. Researchers argue that client-side personalization poses dangers to privacy due to the device’s ability to obtain personal information from the user without permission; such as, the user’s location and activity. Mobile users are confronted with a risk of vulnerability in not knowing how their information is being used by service providers. So, the question is, “who is gaining this information” and “how are they using it to their benefit?” These are the issues that leave users suspicious and wary. If all content is personalized, one could assume that manipulation is a common practice used by marketers. Furthermore, advertisers are capable of targeting the needs and desires of customers who may be more susceptible to buying their product.

On the other hand, server-side personalization allows for companies to compete with one another in order to enhance customer’s satisfaction through a personalized online shopping experience as shown in an article written by Anne D’Innocenzio in the Associated Press. Companies like Walmart are revamping their online presence with ways to improve producer-customer relationships. Moreover, product recommendations cater to individual needs, making it faster and easier to access and discover relatable products. For example, “if a new mom just bought a stroller, the website might recommend diapers and car seats, too.” Within a year, Walmart experienced a 20 percent increase in sales after updating its search tool, allowing customers to search for a product using the new search engine. These methods of personalization allow companies to increase sales while providing customers with the convenience of easy navigation.

Both articles present a trade-off between server-side benefits and client-side risks of personalization. Although personalization allows users to be exposed to information that is specific to their individual needs and desires, it also limits their accessibility to other information while infringing on user’s privacy rights.

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