How and Why Cyberspace Identifies Race
In the modern world, cyberspace is an electronic medium that enables users to communicate, share information, interact, swap ideas and engage in online discussions. It is a virtual world with interactive environments where people from different race and cultures connect globally. The diversity of users cause cyberspace to categorize the users based on their race by using several computer tracking systems, which provides networking sites with information to target their audience with the right advertisements.
Within cyberspace, users can “computer crossdress” or create new online identities that represent themselves as a different race. However, there are three systems that cyberspace uses to identify the user’s race, which are proxies server, geocoding and surname analysis. These systems serve as tools for networking sites to estimate user’s race. Proxies act as intermediaries to help users discover specific information on the web server. It collects and stores Internet Protocol (IP) address from the user’s request message (Figure 1.1). Furthermore, the IP address allows networking sites to track down the user’s location, which could help to indicate the user’s race by analysing the user’s personal data within a limited area. Geocoding, on the other hand, is more precise as it uses the user’s IP address and transforms it into a physical address to identify race (Figure 1.2). For instance, by knowing that the users live in Yaowarat, Chinatown in Thailand, networking sites can estimate the user’s race more accurately because 90 per cent of the residents are Thai Chinese. Moreover, surname analysis refers to race directly because a particular surname belongs exclusively to a particular group (Figure 1.3). For example, ‘Kim’ is a unique Korean surname, while ‘Nguyen’ is Vietnamese. Surnames analysis also appears in many computerized administrative files which state the user’s identity such as driver’s license, citizen cards, passports, etc…
Proxies act as intermediaries to help users discover specific information according to the users request on the web server.
Geocoding uses the user’s IP address and transforms it into a physical address; pinpoint the location on the map.
There are many websites that help analyze user’s surname to identify members of a particular race by examining their surname origin.
Cyberspace identifies user’s race through the proxy server, geocoding and surname analysis to customize their advertisements to suit the target audience. “The right message, to the right user, at the right time” is the main objective for networking site advertisers. Most networking sites rely financially on online advertising such as the Web 2.0, Facebook, where users are content creators and they may share their personal data subconsciously. These information are called raw data, which many sites collect and store it in their database and sorted through the three identification systems. Facebook then uses the cooked data to categorize billions of user’s race and personalise their advertisements to suit their target audience. For example, the target customer for tan skin products would be Westerners because they idealize tan skin. Furthermore, Google is an example of search engines that uses user’s personal data to provide the best search results. They keep track of the raw data through proxies server and use geocoding to pinpoint the user’s location then provide the search results based on the user’s race. For instance, when Thai users search for Sephora store websites, the result they would find on Google is the official Thailand Sephora store website.
According to the research that The Center for Democracy & Technology and the University of California, Berkeley conducted, (Figure 3.1) the way cyberspace identifies race by using the user’s personal data for advertisements, search results and pricing base on race may lead to unequal treatment of different race. The users are uncomfortable with how networking sites categorize and personalize their data to fit different online contexts because the source of the information provided might be accurately or inaccurately inferred. This reinforces that networking sites “estimate” the user’s race and might provide unreliable information in some cases. The graph indicates the use of inferred race for targeted advertising to be somewhat unfair. Accordingly, as stated on the graph, pricing base on personalizing the user’s personal data make users feel intolerable because buying expensive products that can be bought at a lower price is unfair. For instance, comparing the official Thailand Sephora to the United States Sephora store website, there is a difference in the price of the same product which is classified by race. Referring to figure 3.1-3.2, the price of a cosmetic product on the Thailand Sephora website is 1,700 baht compared to the United States Sephora website which is only $38 or 1,248 baht, resulting in a 452 baht difference.
The graph indicate how users feel towards networking sites categorize and personalize their data to fit different online contexts.
Figure 3.1 – 3.2
The pricing gap based on race.
Cyberspace can change the way race functions because as more and more people engage in the platform, race and cultures become diversify. As it allow users to share their opinions and ideas, the diversity of race and cultures are promoted whether the users intended or not. When individuals perceive each race and cultures that are presented through means of online context this enable them to understand the differences between race which lead them to acceptance. Cyberspace has given people the power to make the world a better place. It is a way of expressing the sentiment of different people according to their needs. Therefore, the use of cyberspace for integration and creation of community is possible to connect with people of the same ideology or interest. In general, even though there might be contradictions between different racial ideologies, the individual may be willing to accept that each race and cultures are unique and beautiful in its own way. With this mindsets, cyberspace will be able to guide, shape and change the way race functions in our society to a positive directions.
As a result, cyberspace identifies race by using proxy server, geocoding and surname analysis to provides networking sites with information to target their audience with the right advertisement. By using these three systems allow networking sites to conduct a user’s raw datas which then are store into their database to figure the user’s race. Many networking sites rely on advertisement industries and Facebook is one of the good example. Hosting billion of user’s is beneficial for them to make advertisement effective to each users. Moreover, search engine sites also classified their users for a better searching results. By classified and personalized user’s personal data, in addiction lead to pricing based on race. This considered unfair for the users because they can buy the same products at a lower price. Furthermore, cyberspace has open a wider perspective on race and given the users ability to change how race function. It allow users to share their opinions and ideas on their race and cultures helping the users come to acceptance of race differences that they are all unique and beautiful in their own way. Even though there might be contradictions between different racial ideologies, but with the accepting mindset and understanding will help shape how race function in our society.
How does the internet know your race?
How proxy is used to identify race?
Geocoding and Surname
What does Google know?
Graph Race Fairness: