Have you ever wondered why some sites seem to know what you’re interested in before you even move the mouse to click? Or why your Gmail seems to have the perfect recommendations for local places to eat? This is because you are being tracked online with small pieces of code called “cookies”. Watch our video to learn more about who watches you online.
While you are watching keep these questions in mind – what could businesses or other interests learn from my online behavior? How could they use that information? What does my online routine say about me as an individual? If my job requires me to be online, what information could I be sharing about my employer?
Where do you draw your line between convenience and privacy?
How much do you feel comfortable sharing online? As the video indicates, web tracking involves compiling your personal information and selling it to third-party advertisers. Do you feel comfortable with Google knowing where you live, how old you are, your gender, your income level, and more?
The information that is gathered about you through web tracking provides more relevant advertising while you browse the web, but it’s important to understand how these targeted ads are generated and how much of your personal information is being exposed.
Want to see what web tracking has uncovered about you? Check out this webpage to see what Google thinks your interests are and what your age is, and you can also opt-out from their personalized advertisements. To opt-out from Google Analytics tracking your data on external websites, you can download this add-on.
If you feel really uncomfortable with web tracking, you can also use the anonymous browsing feature from within your Internet browser to conceal your identity. Your Internet Service Provider will still know the sites you visited, but this information will not be sold to advertisers.
For some people, the customized advertisements provided by web tracking are an enriching part of their Internet experience. For others, it’s a dangerous step towards a surveillance state and the commodification of personal information. Perhaps some relief can be found in the fact that the quantity of information collected through web tracking is too abundant for actual human observation and computers are used to sort and sell your information in very generic categories. Rest assured, there isn’t someone personally stalking your Internet activity through web tracking.
- Runkeeper says “sorry!” for sending your every move to an ad service | Naked Security (2016)
- How Protecting Your Privacy Could Make You the Bad Guy | Wired.com (2013)
- What are Cookies?
- You Deleted Your Cookies? Think Again | Wired.com (2009)
- I’m Being Followed | The Atlantic (2012)
- The Murky World of Third Party Web Tracking | MIT Technology Review (2014)
- How the Top 100 Websites are Tracking You | DigitalTrends.com (2012)
- Eyebrowse Project| CBC News (2016)
- AT&T Stops Adding Web Tracking Codes on Cellphones| CTV News (2014)
- Web Tracking Ads | The Wall Street Journal (2010)
- TED Talks- Tracking the Trackers | You Tube (2012)
The Digital Tattoo Project encourages critical discussion on topics surrounding digital citizenship and online identity. There are no correct answers and every person will view these topics from a different perspective. Be sure to complete the previous sections before answering the questions.
- Where should the line be drawn between convenience and privacy?
- What could businesses or other interests learn from your online behaviour and how could this information be used by them?