What have you got to hide? That is the typical response from marketers and many technology firms whenever the question of privacy and online tracking arises. It’s a standard intimidation tactic: You must be some kind of criminal if you’re worried about what we do with your personal information. […]
Fortunately, consumers are beginning to wise up to the very serious issues involved in how our information is being used. Those concerns are — in small ways — reflected in recent moves by the two leading Web browsers. Mozilla’s forthcoming Firefox 4 and Microsoft’s brand new Internet Explorer 9 have added features intended to curb some of that tracking. Even Google, one of the biggest proponents of tracking on the Web, recognizes that the practice can create problems; it now offers a way to block some sites using its Chrome browser.
In case anyone still is skeptical about the dangers of letting people freely track your moves online, here are some points to consider. The information being tracked includes what you read (Fox News or The New York Times; the schedule for your local church or synagogue), what you buy (books about nuclear physics or gun maintenance), and where you go (a coupon used for Olive Garden or a local hotel). […]
The increased use of smart phones and the (slow) introduction of smart power grids makes the information even more detailed. It’s possible to know where and what you’re doing at any given time based on the location and activity of your phone (John is in Walmart looking for plumbing supplies). And smart grids will even tell someone when you are home and what room you may be in (the garage door closed and the power is on in the family room). […]
Put another way, privacy is just one side of the online tracking coin. The other side is personal security. The fact that information about your children, your specific whereabouts, and personal net worth can be collected by unregulated companies and individuals to do with as they see fit puts you and yours at risk. That tracking information can be used not just to serve up ads, but also to get your Social Security number and other details for nefarious means. (Incidentally, it’s National Fraud Prevention month.)
Read the full article for tips on how to better protect your online privacy.