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This is an IELTS writing task 2 sample answer essay related to the topic of personal or private information being held by large companies and organisations.

It is an interesting question but difficult to write about.

For more of my exclusive IELTS PDFs, learn more about my Patreon here, or check out my online courses here, and online writing corrections here.

Dave

IELTS Essay: Personal Information

The personal information of many individuals is held by large internet companies and organisations.

Do you think the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?

There are growing concerns today about the storage of private data by major internet companies like Facebook and Google. In my opinion, the disadvantages of this trend outweigh its conveniences.

These companies themselves would argue their intentions are primarily to provide better services. This relates first of all to advertising. Facebook, for example, tracks user behaviour and then allows advertisers to target audience segments in order to show them relevant advertising. An individual might therefore see ads related to the kinds of restaurants and music they enjoy most. Secondly, the information is used to create helpful services for consumers. Google maps is a good example of an entirely free platform used by millions that follows individuals, sells information to businesses, and makes life more convenient without any obvious drawbacks or pernicious intent.

However, the misuse of big data has begun already and will only become worse in the future. The advertisements targeted at individuals are not always harmless. During the last presidential election in the United States, foreign governments sought out vulnerable groups and fed them false information to influence voting behaviour. Unethical companies use the advanced targeting tools in the same way, often locating vulnerable individuals and encouraging their worst impulses by indulging coping mechanisms ranging from fast food to barely legal pharmaceuticals. This is only the beginning as this information becomes more comprehensive there are legitimate concerns that authoritarian regimes working in tandem with companies will be able to create all-knowing police states and human rights abuses will become the norm.

In conclusion, the marginal benefits of access to personal information by private companies do not outweigh both current and future negatives. It is therefore important that governments regulate companies and individuals attempt to take back a degree of control.

Analysis

1. There are growing concerns today about the storage of private data by major internet companies like Facebook and Google. 2. In my opinion, the disadvantages of this trend outweigh its conveniences.

  1. Paraphrase the overall essay topic.
  2. Write a clear opinion. Read more about introductions here.

1. These companies themselves would argue their intentions are primarily to provide better services. 2. This relates first of all to advertising. Facebook, for example, tracks user behaviour and then allows advertisers to target audience segments in order to show them relevant advertising. 3. An individual might therefore see ads related to the kinds of restaurants and music they enjoy most. 4. Secondly, the information is used to create helpful services for consumers. 5. Google maps is a good example of an entirely free platform used by millions that follows individuals, sells information to businesses, and makes life more convenient without any obvious drawbacks or pernicious intent.

  1. Write a topic sentence with a clear main idea here.
  2. Explain your main idea.
  3. Begin a specific example.
  4. Develop the example.
  5. This one asks for more than one advantage and disadvantage so make sure you have two in each paragraph.

1. However, the misuse of big data has begun already and will only become worse in the future. 2. The advertisements targeted at individuals are not always harmless. 3. During the last presidential election in the United States, foreign governments sought out vulnerable groups and fed them false information to influence voting behaviour. 4. Unethical companies use the advanced targeting tools in the same way, often locating vulnerable individuals and encouraging their worst impulses by indulging coping mechanisms ranging from fast food to barely legal pharmaceuticals. 5. This is only the beginning as this information becomes more comprehensive there are legitimate concerns that authoritarian regimes working in tandem with companies will be able to create all-knowing police states and human rights abuses will become the norm.

  1. Write a new topic sentence.
  2. Explain the main idea.
  3. Use a specific example.
  4. Develop the example.
  5. Be sure you mention a second disadvantage and develop it as much as possible.

1. In conclusion, the marginal benefits of access to personal information by private companies do not outweigh both current and future negatives. 2. It is therefore important that governments regulate companies and individuals attempt to take back a degree of control.

  1. Repeat your opinion and summarise your main ideas.
  2. Add a final thought/detail. Read more about conclusions here.

Vocabulary

What do the words in bold below mean?

There are growing concerns today about the storage of private data by major internet companies like Facebook and Google. In my opinion, the disadvantages of this trend outweigh its conveniences.

These companies themselves would argue their intentions are primarily to provide better services. This relates first of all to advertising. Facebook, for example, tracks user behaviour and then allows advertisers to target audience segments in order to show them relevant advertising. An individual might therefore see ads related to the kinds of restaurants and music they enjoy most. Secondly, the information is used to create helpful services for consumers. Google maps is a good example of an entirely free platform used by millions that follows individuals, sells information to businesses, and makes life more convenient without any obvious drawbacks or pernicious intent.

However, the misuse of big data has begun already and will only become worse in the future. The advertisements targeted at individuals are not always harmless. During the last presidential election in the United States, foreign governments sought out vulnerable groups and fed them false information to influence voting behaviour. Unethical companies use the advanced targeting tools in the same way, often locating vulnerable individuals and encouraging their worst impulses by indulging coping mechanisms ranging from fast food to barely legal pharmaceuticals. This is only the beginning as this information becomes more comprehensive there are legitimate concerns that authoritarian regimes working in tandem with companies will be able to create all-knowing police states and human rights abuses will become the norm.

In conclusion, the marginal benefits of access to personal information by private companies do not outweigh both current and future negatives. It is therefore important that governments regulate companies and individuals attempt to take back a degree of control.

Answers

growing concerns increasing worries

storage keeping of

private data personal information

major main

trend pattern

conveniences makes life easier

intentions what you want to do

primarily mainly

provide better services give better products

relates first of all has to do with firstly

tracks user behaviour follows what people are doing

target audience segments pinpoint certain groups of people

relevant advertising ads related to what you like

secondly second of all

helpful good for them

entirely free platform costs nothing

without any obvious drawbacks no clear downsides

pernicious intent bad intentions

misuse not used the right way

harmless doesn’t hurt anyone

presidential election voting for a new president

foreign governments other countries

sought out looked for

vulnerable groups people who are at risk

fed them false information gave them lies

influence voting behaviour change how people vote

unethical immoral

advanced targeting tools sophisticated advertising mechanisms

locating vulnerable individuals finding people at risk

encouraging their worst impulses making them do bad things

indulging coping mechanisms encourage bad behaviour that makes you feel good about yourself

barely legal pharmaceuticals drugs

comprehensive all-encompassing

legitimate concerns real worries

authoritarian regimes totalitarian governments

in tandem with combined with

all-knowing police states authoritarian regimes

human rights abuses abusing people

norm standard

marginal benefits small advantages

access be able to get

negatives downsides

regulate restrict

attempt try

take back a degree of control try to manage

Pronunciation

ˈgrəʊɪŋ kənˈsɜːnz 
ˈstɔːrɪʤ 
ˈpraɪvɪt ˈdeɪtə 
ˈmeɪʤə 
trɛnd 
kənˈviːniənsɪz
ɪnˈtɛnʃənz 
ˈpraɪmərɪli 
prəˈvaɪd ˈbɛtə ˈsɜːvɪsɪz
rɪˈleɪts fɜːst ɒv ɔːl 
træks ˈjuːzə bɪˈheɪvjə 
ˈtɑːgɪt ˈɔːdiəns ˈsɛgmənts 
ˈrɛlɪvənt ˈædvətaɪzɪŋ
ˈsɛkəndli
ˈhɛlpfʊl 
ɪnˈtaɪəli friː ˈplætfɔːm 
wɪˈðaʊt ˈɛni ˈɒbvɪəs ˈdrɔːbæks 
pɜːˈnɪʃəs ɪnˈtɛnt
ˌmɪsˈjuːs 
ˈhɑːmlɪs
ˌprɛzɪˈdɛnʃəl ɪˈlɛkʃən 
ˈfɒrɪn ˈgʌvnmənts 
sɔːt aʊt 
ˈvʌlnərəbl gruːps 
fɛd ðɛm fɔːls ˌɪnfəˈmeɪʃən 
ˈɪnflʊəns ˈvəʊtɪŋ bɪˈheɪvjə
ˌʌnˈɛθɪkəl 
ədˈvɑːnst ˈtɑːgɪtɪŋ tuːlz 
ləʊˈkeɪtɪŋ ˈvʌlnərəbl ˌɪndɪˈvɪdjʊəlz 
ɪnˈkʌrɪʤɪŋ ðeə wɜːst ˈɪmpʌlsɪz 
ɪnˈdʌlʤɪŋ ˈkəʊpɪŋ ˈmɛkənɪzmz 
ˈbeəli ˈliːgəl ˌfɑːməˈsjuːtɪkəlz
ˌkɒmprɪˈhɛnsɪv 
lɪˈʤɪtɪmɪt kənˈsɜːnz 
ɔːˌθɒrɪˈteərɪən reɪˈʒiːmz 
ɪn ˈtændəm wɪð 
ɔːl-ˈnəʊɪŋ pəˈliːs steɪts 
ˈhjuːmən raɪts əˈbjuːsɪz 
nɔːm
ˈmɑːʤɪnəl ˈbɛnɪfɪts 
ˈæksɛs 
ˈnɛgətɪvz
ˈrɛgjʊleɪt 
əˈtɛmpt 
teɪk bæk ə dɪˈgriː ɒv kənˈtrəʊl

Vocabulary Practice

Remember and fill in the blanks:

There are g_____________________s today about the s_________e of p_______________a by m_______r internet companies like Facebook and Google. In my opinion, the disadvantages of this t_______d outweigh its c______________s.

These companies themselves would argue their i_______________s are p_____________y to p______________________s. This r___________________l to advertising. Facebook, for example, t_________________________r and then allows advertisers to t__________________________s in order to show them r________________________g. An individual might therefore see ads related to the kinds of restaurants and music they enjoy most. S___________y, the information is used to create h_________l services for consumers. Google maps is a good example of an e___________________m used by millions that follows individuals, sells information to businesses, and makes life more convenient w_____________________________s or p______________________t.

However, the m__________e of big data has begun already and will only become worse in the future. The advertisements targeted at individuals are not always h____________s. During the last p____________________n in the United States, f______________________s s_______________t v___________________s and f_____________________________n to i____________________________r. U__________l companies use the a________________________s in the same way, often l_______________________________s and e_____________________________________s by i_______________________________s ranging from fast food to b______________________________s. This is only the beginning as this information becomes more c________________e there are l______________________s that a_______________________s working i_______________________h companies will be able to create a___________________________s and h____________________s will become the n______m.

In conclusion, the m_____________________s of a________s to personal information by private companies do not outweigh both current and future n______________s. It is therefore important that governments r___________e companies and individuals a___________t to t______________________________l.

Listening Practice

Listen more about this topic below and use these ideas to practice:

Reading Practice

Read more about this topic and practice with these activities:

https://www.techrepublic.com/article/facebook-data-privacy-scandal-a-cheat-sheet/

Speaking Practice

Practice with the following questions from the real IELTS speaking exam:

Websites

  1. What internet sites do people in your country use for entertainment?
  2. Why is more and more news now published on social media websites?
  3. What can we do to stop the spread of unreliable news?
  4. How have websites changed in the last decade?
  5. Should there be tighter regulation on websites?

Writing Practice

Practice with the related topic below and then check with my sample answer:

Many people believe that social networking sites (such as Facebook) have a huge negative impact on both individuals and society.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?


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