Friday, October 1, 2010

Internet Privacy and Prying Eyes

“Privacy is not something that I’m merely entitled to, it’s an absolute prerequisite.”
Marlon Brando

You are a 39 year old man who likes to play baseball, drink premium beer and go on long bike rides. You are married with two kids, work in the financial services field, own your own home, make roughly $150,000 a year. You have a college degree, and you struggle with mild depression. Have we met? No, and we probably never will, but I can find out everything about you simply because you like to surf the internet. Based on the keywords we use in search engines, our news sites, shopping habits and even simple things like restaurant reviews we write allow companies to get to know us more intimately than your neighbour and maybe even your spouse. Welcome to the world of today’s personalized internet marketing, a world that has moved well beyond simple cookies and even beacons. I am not talking about the ones mama used to bake or guiding lights, but something far more sinister. These new tracking tools are eyes designed to carefully and surreptitiously watch your every move and even everything you type, depending on the nature of the individual software that gets downloaded every time you open a webpage. And yes, I mean any and every webpage. Originally, these tools were meant to be harmless reminders of our preferences on a specific site: which geography we were in, our saved shopping cart items, and our shipping and billing information. In addition, these were cookies installed by the website, but today they have morphed into digital stalkers whose actions are akin to going through your trash. Worse yet, in many instances the site you are visiting may not even be aware that this type of watching software exists on its web page. It is increasingly being used by third party content providers of which there can be dozens on any given page, who are serving content from ad banners to free software downloads. Alarmed yet?

The people who capture and sell this information say that an individual’s anonymity is protected because we are never identified by name or address. But all this information is being collected from a combination of gleaning publicly available databases and using surreptitious tracking tools on the web as described in the opening paragraph. These companies then add some smart geeks who write programs that can analyze this information and attach assumptions by cross referencing things like home ownership records, family income, medical records and even favourite restaurants and brands you are loyal to and make very detailed and scarily accurate assumptions about each individual. This information is mostly packaged and sold to advertisers, marketers and even financial services companies who are quite likely to be making credit card and loan approvals based on these assumptions, which includes the credit worthiness of an individual. Even though financial companies claim that they are not using this information to profile or reject people for loans, but to better target their products and services. Marketers and retailers say they are able to more effectively do the same. I know from working on websites for various clients that we served up the landing page of a site by recognizing who you are, but this was non-intrusive and based on your visit and purchase history, and limited to your secure activity on that site (and with your consent). It was never based on your general surfing history or activity outside that particular website. The promise of this technology was individual customization; however, what I am now describing goes far deeper and uses information far beyond the reach and remit of one particular web merchant. For example “If we've identified a visitor as a midlife-crisis male," says Demdex CEO Randy Nicolau, a client, such as an auto retailer, can "give him a different experience than a young mother with a new family." The guy sees a red convertible, the mom a minivan.” (Wall Street Journal article: http://bit.ly/96MiWX).

I understand that the world we live in today is very different from the one our parents grew up in, or for that matter even from the one we grew up in. Technology has changed our lives in many ways, and one of the sacrifices of convenience and the instant gratification which we all seem to yearn, is our privacy. For us to not have to go through the pain of initiation and identification each time we land on a webpage, to shop or consume news, or read recipes means each site needs to remember who we are and what our preferences are. In simple terms it means that each time I go to read news I will not have to specify my geography for the edition I want or have to re-enter my credit card or shipping address each time I shop at my favourite online store. All this is reasonable to me and I am sure to most people, and more importantly we are able make this choice. You can, for instance, delete cookies after each internet session, and voila, the same site will treat you like a first time visitor until you sign in to your password protected account. However, in this new world, the majority of time we are not told, or even aware of, who is tracking and monitoring our surfing activity or how much of it is being watched, stored, analyzed and then sold to a third party. Many young people today seem to feel that privacy is an old-fashioned notion for an old-fashioned generation; I completely disagree, but that is a matter for another blog. If someone wants to share his or her life’s every waking moment, from brushing their teeth in the morning to crying themselves to sleep at night and everything in-between, then all the power to them (suffice it to say, I will never accept you as a ‘friend’ or quickly ‘un-friend’ you) but that is your choice and mine. Taking away my privacy or invading it without my knowledge is not acceptable, because I did not volunteer to give it up. This is where I have a fundamental issue with this new practice, and the laws that govern our privacy are hopelessly outdated for this new digital world. So for all those people who believed the internet was the last and greatest bastion of anonymity - simply put, you’re no longer a random IP address.

I encourage you to read the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article and series I cited above, on Internet privacy. Below I am listing sites you can visit in order to Opt-Out from being tracked and a link to download Privacy Choice, a WSJ vetted software, which tells you who is watching you on every site you visit (the company that provides the software does not track or monitor you). While these are things you can do to take greater control of your privacy, you should keep in mind that all of this is based on companies that voluntarily disclose their tracking tools, and are members of the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), a body formed to create greater transparency and protect our online privacy. Many of the companies tracking us are not members of NAI and do not disclose their tracking tools, only the big and reputable companies do.

List of sites to Opt-Out:


Privacy Choice: the website offering FREE software tool that allows you to see who is tracking you on each site you visit: http://www.privacychoice.org/trackerwatcher/download

24 comments:

  1. comScore, the parent company of RelevantKnowledge, has invested substantial resources in making our data collection and privacy practices the best they can possibly be. Recently, comScore's ScorecardResearch service earned the highest possible rating of 50 out of 50 for its online privacy practices by PrivacyChoice, a leader in privacy technology innovation. ScorecardResearch is a service offered by comScore, which also operates the RelevantKnowledge market research panel. If you have further questions about RelevantKnowledge, please visit our website: http://www.relevantknowledge.com/faq.aspx
    Thank you,
    RelevantKnowledge Customer Support Team

    ReplyDelete
  2. For this example we will assume you have a lead capture (squeeze) page live online and converting some of the visitors to that page into subscribers read here

    ReplyDelete
  3. I definitely loved every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked your site to check out the new stuff you post. thebestvpn.uk

    ReplyDelete
  4. Your post has those facts which are not accessible from anywhere else. It’s my humble request to u please keep writing such remarkable articles beste vpn

    ReplyDelete
  5. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info  mejoresvpn.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you so much for sharing this great blog.Very inspiring and helpful too.Hope you continue to share more of your ideas.I will definitely love to read. clickfunnels alternative

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks so much for sharing this awesome info! I am looking forward to see more postsby you! microsoft web hosting small business

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hello I am so delighted I located your blog, I really located you by mistake, while I was watching on google for something else, Anyways I am here now and could just like to say thank for a tremendous post and a all round entertaining website. Please do keep up the great work. building web 2.0 links

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. www.cbreviewsguru.com

    ReplyDelete
  10. Just admiring your work and wondering how you managed this blog so well. It’s so remarkable that I can't afford to not go through this valuable information whenever I surf the internet! corso genova gdpr

    ReplyDelete
  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I am all that much satisfied with the substance you have specified. I needed to thank you for this extraordinary article.  https://diebestenvpn.at

    ReplyDelete
  13. At that point in 1915 American Telephone and Telegraph pondered making a remote telephone however they were worried about the possibility that that this incredible innovation would undermine its syndication on wired administrations in the United States. internetprivatsphare

    ReplyDelete
  14. A round of applause for your article.Much thanks again. Really Cool. SEO company

    ReplyDelete
  15. Attend The Data Science Course in Bangalore From ExcelR. Practical Data Science Course in Bangalore Sessions With Assured Placement Support From Experienced Faculty. ExcelR Offers The Data Science Course in Bangalore.
    Data Science Course in Bangalore

    ReplyDelete
  16. Attend The Digital Marketing Training in Bangalore From ExcelR. Practical Digital Marketing Training in Bangalore Sessions With Assured Placement Support From Experienced Faculty. ExcelR Offers The Digital Marketing Training in Bangalore.
    Digital Marketing Training in Bangalore

    ReplyDelete

  17. Excelr’s online training in Guidewire is customized and for good enough reasons. Consider what regular trainers offer. A typica Digital Marketing Course in Sydney
    would take learners through the basics
    of Guidewire, teach them about configuration and understanding of various models, go on to organizing the claims centre and then best practices. This type of generalized
    training is of little use to employees handling specific parts like claims management, policy management or billing. Excelr’s custom online training addresses gaps and goes
    in-depth into specifics for each employee and his role. The result is that employees emerge better empowered and knowledgeable as well as skilled in what they have to deal with
    on a day to day basis.Unlike others, Excelr does not believe in a one size fits all approach in corporate training if highest efficiency and productivity are the goals.
    Each employee’s role is analyzed and a custom package is tailored to bring him up to speed. This has two benefits. One, the learner is motivated to learn because what he
    learns directly concerns his areas of work. Two, he learns more, in-depth and at speed. The training is online so he can access materials any time he is free and proceed at
    his convenience. He can access a tutor anytime he faces any issue while learning and become perfect in the selected modules. Tutors also go beyond to transfer the knowledge
    they have gained through years of hands-on experience and give insights that are not usually available in a regular course. By establishing a one-to-one relationship with the
    tutor, the learner remains committed and gets to know far more than he would be he to attend a classroom-based course.


    ReplyDelete


  18. Thank you so much for sharing the article. Really I get many valuable information from the article
    With our Digital Marketing Training, re-discover your creative instinct to design significant marketing strategies to promote a product/service related to any organization from any business sector.

    Digital Marketing Course in Sydney

    ReplyDelete
  19. Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the fantastic lucidity in your writing. I will instantly grab your articles to get deeper into the topic. And as the same way ExcelR also helps organisations by providing data science courses based on practical knowledge and theoretical concepts. It offers the best value in training services combined with the support of our creative staff to provide meaningful solution that suits your learning needs.
    digital marketing course

    ReplyDelete

  20. Excelr is providing emerging & trending technology training, such as for data science, Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, AWS, Tableau, Digital Marketing. Excelr is standing as a leader in providing quality training on top demanding technologies in 2019. Excelr`s versatile training is making a huge difference all across the globe. Enable ?business analytics? skills in you, and the trainers who were delivering training on these are industry stalwarts. Get certification on "
    digital marketing training"
    and get trained with Excelr.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative and I really learned a lot from it.
    machine learning training

    ReplyDelete
  22. Digital Marketing can be defined as a unique marketing strategy that is implemented in digital platforms through Internet Medium to reach the target audience. When compared to traditional marketing, search analytics gives you an extra edge in Digital Marketing. Analytics empowers the business to analyse the success in their business strategies and provides the required data to modify the strategies to suit the market requirements and improve ROI.

    Digital Marketing Course
    Digital Marketing Course in Sydney

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thank you so much for sharing the article.
    Women fashion has always been in vouge. It has been continually changing, evolving, rebrading itself with every passing day. Compared to men,

    women's clothing has far more variety in terms of colors options, fabrics and styles.

    Just take a step out of your home and you would spot either a grocery store or a women's clothing shop first! No wonder even in the online world women are spoilt for choices
    with the likes of Amazon, Flipkart bringing the neighbourhood retail stores to you on your fingertips.
    Here we try to explore what are the other shopping options you have for women and what they are known for.


    Glambees is relatively a new entrant in the market but you will definitely love the collection you will find here. You mostly find beautiful ethic wear collections in sarees
    and salwar suits but some really good tops to pair with your jeans too.women's online clothing store dealing in sarees, salwar suits, dress materials, kurtis, lehengas,
    casual wear, wedding wear, party wear and more. The selection and affordability is its USP.

    ReplyDelete
  24. It would appear that the author has put a considerable measure of diligent work into this.
    crypto trader

    ReplyDelete