Identity theft, intrusive web tracking, spying on an Internet user’s surfing habits and navigation throughout the web. How can people protect themselves from being monitored and spied upon? It’s a not a question of if it’s being done, as almost every site on the Internet does it, some much more than others.
Those that are aware of the growing practice of tagging and tracking call it abusive and a blatant invasion of privacy. But the big websites counter that willing access to their sites demonstrates that a user implicitly gives permission to be tracked and sometimes even have data shared with other sites and marketing companies.
Worse, not all such tracking is reputable—some include companies that seek to harvest private information that could end up in the hands of criminals or criminal organizations.
Social networking sites have only exacerbated the problems of privacy and remaining private on the Internet. The mega-monster of all sites that rapidly trounced the grandaddy of social networking—MySpace—is Facebook.
Facebook was launched in 2004 by its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Anyone in the world is free to use it, as long as the user is at least 13-years-old and has a working email address.
The latest estimate of Facebook users exceeds one half billion people. Most of those users are blissfully unaware that Facebook is tracking them, creating profiles on their likes and dislikes, digging into their users’ histories, preferences, types of friends, and other demographics.
Many users freely share information with friends thinking only their Facebook buddies can see the information.
They’re wrong. Like the ubiquitous Big Brother, Facebook sees all. At least most of what transpires on its far flung, global networking site. Such information, shared with organizations willing to pay for it, is part of what makes Facebook money.
The ‘datr’ cookie
Business Insider reports that the Facebook cookie, “known as the ‘datr’ cookie, has been a controversial topic for the past year. Using this cookie, among other things, Facebook knows what you have read on a web page even if you did not click the ‘like’ button. As the Wall Street Journal reported, ‘for this to work, a person only needs to have logged into Facebook or Twitter once in the past month. The sites will continue to collect browsing data, even if the person closes their browser or turns off their computers.’
Privacy experts are condemning the practice as spying, but Facebook and legions of commercial Internet companies counter that the practice is nothing more sinister than advanced target marketing.
Cookies spiders, bots and more things that go bump on the Internet
Logging onto a website often means that cookies will be downloaded into your computer. Today, most people know what cookies are. They can just sit in your computer and wait until you return to the originating site, or they can follow you around the Internet like a hungry cookie monster reporting back your activities to the site that installed them into your computer.
Other sites are more advanced. They send out legions, armies, of “spiders”—software robots that wend their way through the twists and turns of the World Wide Web. Web spiders, get it?
Spiders can become annoying if they start attracting other spiders that start following a user like a pack of hunting dogs, to mix metaphors. Spiders van also be dangerous and can find their way into un[protected sections of your operating system. If the spiders are malicious, they can create havoc, track your passwords and sensitive information shared with banks, credit card companies, government entities, and more.
Intrusion increases with every click
The Internet robots are used by some sites, and not by others. The only way to protect against them is to be aware that such technology exists and the measures that are available to shield against such invasion.
According to Business Insider Facebook’s intrusion into personal data, habits and privacy increases with every click.
One of the best programs available to stop unauthorized tracking by Facebook and most everyone else if Do Not Track Plus (DNT+).
Professional sites like CNET, Business Insider, and others attest to the software’s ability to detect tracking and stop it in its tracks. Some of what DNT+ does, according to their description of the software is:
Stop advertisers from knowing what you do online, including your site visits, shopping interests, hobbies, clicks, and geographic location;
Load certain websites up to four times faster;
Block 580 different tracking technologies from over 215 tracking companies (and that list is always growing).
Best of all, it’s free.
For any that are concerned about keeping private information private, software to protect against all the new privacy invading technology is imperative.