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Stanford study shows opting out of Web tracking not so easy


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#1 Animal

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 12:49 PM

Mike Swift of the San Jose Mercury news writes:

A new study by Stanford researchers has found many online advertising companies continue to follow people's Web activity even after users believe they have opted out of tracking.

The preliminary research has sparked renewed calls from privacy groups and Congress for a "Do Not Track" law to allow people to opt out of tracking, like the Do Not Call list that limits telemarketers.

While some online advertisers acknowledged the problem, an industry trade group criticized the study by "a Stanford graduate student" and said self-regulation by the industry was better than a new law.

"I think industry self-regulation is a joke," shot back U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who has proposed legislation allowing the Federal Trade Commission to regulate online tracking. "It's precisely why we need the FTC to regulate them. For those who say, 'Privacy, get over it,' I absolutely reject that."


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#2 Anonix

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 06:17 PM

Thanks for posting this. Imagine my surprise when, after visiting several health care related web sites over the weekend, on Monday I got TWO telemarketing calls about (ta da!) health care services, one from a nearby hospital, and another from a care facility located about 30 miles away. One of the websites I visited (healthcare.gov) stated specifically that they do not track your use of the website or retain information you enter. And I believe them. But apparently, that's not where the problem lies. Because I also clicked through to other links and viewed other health related websites.

Clearly, what is happening is, my internet surfing habits are being sold, probably within seconds of my visits to certain websites. And they were able to tie my ip address to my home phone (they probably have my email address as well). It's astonishing really. I believe these phone calls were related to my weekend surfing because I have NEVER received any other health care related telephone call out of the blue in the past DECADE.

A few months ago, after realizing the extent of the problem, I started using a service called Abine (abine dot com) which is really terrific, and I also started using TOR. Unfortunately, if you keep java script disabled in TOR (which is the only way to keep any semblance of anonymity), then you can't watch you tube or lots of other videos, which is a huge drawback, so I don't use it as often as I should. Maybe after what just happened, I will make more of an effort to use TOR! I should also mention that I was tracked IN SPITE OF having added the 'do not track' add-on to my Firefox browser. Absolutely these companies ignored my request to 'do not track'.

And for those who think 'privacy' schmivacy'? Get over it? Well, I had to change my telephone numbers after some disreputable company got a hold of it and started selling off the numbers -- three and four times a day getting calls from various shady companies. It was a huge hassle to make the phone number changes but it was either that or put up with all those unwanted calls. And websites such as spokeo, peoplefinder, and others (too numerous to count) are virtual havens for criminals intent on identity theft. It's irresponsible NOT to put the consumer in the driver's seat and let us opt out.

This stuff all ties together -- phone numbers, surfing habits, emails, etc. If they can track your surfing habits, it doesn't take much more effort to create a contacts profile on you, which they can then sell.

This area of industry is WAY overdue for regulation, IMHO.

For what it's worth...




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