There are two sad realities about online tracking. One reality is that the majority of people have their online activities tracked on nearly every website that they visit and these tracking protocols have very little oversight, nearly no rules associated with them, and can be stored indefinitely by anyone, even sites or companies that you’ve never visited. The other sad reality is that everyone has the ability to stop the tracking, but it would mean doing things that few are willing to do.
These things include setting cookies to expire automatically when browsers are closed, ending the use of social networks, and adding yourself to a do not track list. Cookies are convenient – people often hate having to start over on the webpages they visit. They like going to their email or other regularly visited sites and getting straight to the point without having to put in their passwords. They like that sites know them. Ending social network use – blasphemy! Going on a do not track list – so few know it even exists and it seems like such a hassle, right?
Regardless of the reasons that we don’t do these things, the fact that we don’t makes us willing participants in the reduction of our own privacy. In general, out society has gotten to the point that most privacy issues are annoyances at most. We simply don’t consider them bad enough to warrant action. In many ways, it’s as if we willingly stick our heads in the sand so that we don’t know that the risks are out there, that the potential for nefarious activities is high, and that our personal data is used to custom tailor much of our online experience to push us towards spending more money on this or getting more involved with that.
It’s a subtle form of manipulation not much more offensive than product placements in movies or television shows, but unfortunately it’s much more dangerous than that.
It’s not everyone. There are plenty of people out there who take their privacy seriously and try to educate others about what’s happening with their personal data. Over time, people will either wake up to the risks or they’ll become more complacent about it all. At this point, it’s unclear which direction the general population will go. It’s like eating chicken nuggets or the famous McRib. There are those who wouldn’t touch them with a glance let alone put them in their mouth and many of those people are the ones who know how these semi-edible atrocities are made. Still, they’re wildly popular. Deep down, just about everyone who eats them know that they are really bad for them and likely understand that the manufacturing methods are disgusting.
They simply don’t want to know the reality. They taste good (to some), they’re fast, and they’re cheap. Don’t burst their bubble, they think. They want to go on living in ignorance…
…just like those who don’t take a closer look at online tracking.
If you’re willing to know the truth (and hopefully tell others) here’s a basic graphic that explains much of what you need to know. These are only the basics, but it’s a start. If you’re willing to learn more, the internet is ready for you to do some research. If, after doing more research, you want to help spread the word, contact us. I’d love to see a guest article on the topic.
Here’s the infographic by Backgroundcheck.org:
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“Tracking” image courtesy of Shutterstock.