Your private life is the new online currency
Websites are getting sneakier, spying on you with increasingly sophisticated techniques to collect data. Now they know everything from your favorite movie to your secret fears about gaining weight.
August 3, 2010 3:51 by Katherine Azmeh
So how exactly how are your secrets converted into profits? Simply put, visitors to many popular websites are being monitored by sophisticated tracking software that captures their keystrokes as they are entered on the site. User actions are tracked by tiny files and programs, known as “cookies,” “flash cookies,” and “beacons,” explains the report. The data compiled is packaged into profiles and sold to companies seeking customers.
The tracking tools can make highly accurate predictions about a wide range of user characteristics, including details related to a user’s age, gender, income, marital status, presence of children in the home, and so on. According to the Wall Street Journal report, the top 50 websites in the US installed an average of more than 60 pieces of tracking technology onto the computers of website visitors. The tracking files are installed the first time a user visits a participating website. The user’s computer then receives a unique ID number. Each time the uniquely identified computer visits a site utilizing the same tracking company service, data about that user is added to the growing profile.
Data profiles are the new spending money of the internet market. And while vendors of the surveillance survey contend that no user names are associated with the profiles, advertisers’ increasingly sophisticated assumptions about users can be a bit unnerving.
“I don’t like the fact that I’m receiving more and more ads related to hyperactivity,” commented the mother of a five-year old, who admits she has extensively researched the disorder online. “It’s a matter of privacy. I mean, this is my personal computer; I feel like it’s talking about me behind my back,” she added.
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