Right People at the Right Time:
This is the most common selling slogan for advertising companies. This is commonly called targeted advertising. The advertisers get to choose the demographic of the advertisers that they want to sell their products to. Even beyond applications like Facebook where people voluntarily share information like Relationship status and Likes, there are other companies that collect similar data based on user activities online.
Through the hundreds of web pages that you visit everyday, you’re leaving a trail of information that advertising companies can track. All these websites are able to provide all the free services that they do, only because they can make up the costs through advertising. So success for the websites comes from driving traffic through their websites. Success for advertisers comes from providing the most relevant ads for each user so they end up clicking on the ads and possibly paying money for products or services they are selling. They data the advertising agencies track is not something that you can erase by closing your browser or even restarting your machine.
According to the wikipedia – A cookie is used for an origin website to send state information to a user’s browser and for the browser to return the state information to the origin site. The state information can be anything that is actually stored on your computer. So should you permanently disable cookies? Usually it is a good thing to allow cookies on your computer inorder to enjoy full benefits of a website. For e.g. when you’re shopping on Amazon.com and you added a few items to your shopping cart, you should have cookies enabled to be able to come back the next day and continue shopping from where you left off. So it is a very good thing in terms of convenience.
Advertising companies use the same technique to store cookies on your computer and track your online activities. This page ( http://www.networkadvertising.org/managing/opt_out.asp ) lists cookies from advertising platforms that are currently working on your computer. If you watched carefully it will be advertisements placed by one of these companies, that will be most relevant to your recent online activity.
How to protect myself:
Even though most ad companies are not malicious and don’t profit by selling your personal information, it is good to aware of what is happening so close to you. There is some information that you’ll never want to share with anyone, like maybe your medical situation. For such information you should know how to protect yourself from involuntarily divulging it to online companies. Here are a few tips:
- Delete your cookies once in a while. There is plenty of help online on how to do it.
- Beware of malicious sites. Remember they too can place cookies on your computer.
- When entering secure data like bank details or passwords, make sure that page is encrypted by HTTPS. You also get plenty of help if you search online on this topic.
- Once in a while, look at the cookies on your computer to make sure that someone else using that computer is not going to malicious sites.
There is online security organizations and security enthusiasts who check advertising companies if they try to go over board. It is good to know a few of these organizations:
Medical information online:
Particular care must be taken when you’re searching for medical answers online. Usually search engines store IP addresses of its users so it can trace a particular search query to an individual quite easily. When doing medical searches, try to use websites that don’t store any information that can be used to identify you. Try to find services that do not store any information that be used to trace a search query back to you and thus protecting the privacy of your medical information.
Prevention is better than cure. The Internet is still evolving and we don’t know what it be look like tomorrow. It is better to protect any sensitive data and continue enjoying all the benefits of the Internet.