Monday, September 10, 2012
Who Is Tracking You Online?
Why does this matter?
Privacy-hounds are constantly decrying tracking from company sites and third parties. Facebook is tracking you! Google is tracking you! CNN is tracking you! And who knows what other shadowy figures lurk in morass of code, looking for credit card numbers or other valuable data.
But there are positives in this tracking equation. Tracking helps companies like Google deliver better search results to you personally, by knowing that when you are searching for the term "rockets," based on your search history, you're probably more interested in NASA than the basketball team. Tracking means that the ads you see on websites are more likely to be for things that you're interested in.
Still, the idea that people are constantly collecting information on you is a little irksome. And while I might not mind Google tracking me, I don't really need a lot of advertisers tracking me.
So today, I stumbled on an article via Google+: This Is How Facebook Is Tracking Your Internet Activity. The article's author, Samantha Felix, installed a new software program, Do Not Track +, and within a single browsing session, found that Facebook had made over 300 requests to track her information. THREE HUNDRED REQUESTS. Wowsers.
Facebook is definitely low on my trust-worthy websites list, mostly because they don't seem to care about users' privacy or anything besides making money and world domination (and not in the good Napoleon-type way of world domination, either). So, since the Do Not Track + software is free, I downloaded it for my Chrome browser. (You can download your own DNT+ here.)
In the first fifteen minutes, I found it had blocked almost 200 requests for tracking information, from the following sites: New York Times, Business Insider, a local business I looked up, and Google+. (After visiting other Google properties--Gmail, G+, Blogger--I find that only Google itself is requesting tracking info on these sites.) Interesting.
How do you feel about online tracking? Is it useful for you? Or do you see it as an invasion of your online privacy?