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    USA Today: Web tracking has become a privacy time bomb

    USA Today reports on the privacy issue of online tracking of consumers:

    The coolest free stuff on the Internet actually comes at a notable price: your privacy. For more than a decade, tracking systems have been taking note of where you go and what you search for on the Web — without your permission. And today many of the personal details you voluntarily divulge on popular websites and social networks are being similarly tracked and analyzed.

    The purpose for all of this online snooping is singular: Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, Facebook and others are intent on delivering more relevant online ads to each and every one of us — and bagging that advertising money. […]

    As digital shadowing escalates, so too have concerns about the erosion of traditional notions of privacy. Privacy advocates have long fretted that health companies, insurers, lenders, employers, lawyers, regulators and law enforcement could begin to acquire detailed profiles derived from tracking data to use unfairly against people. Indeed, new research shows that as tracking technologies advance, and as more participants join the burgeoning tracking industry, the opportunities for privacy invasion are rising. […]

    Website security company Dasient recently found examples of PC-based tracking techniques getting extended in a troublesome way to Internet-connected mobile devices.

    Dasient analyzed 10,000 free mobile apps that enable gaming, financial services, entertainment and other services on Google Android smartphones. Researchers found more than 8%, or 842, of the Android apps took the unusual step of asking users’ permission to access the handset’s International Mobile Equipment Identity number, the unique code assigned to each cellphone. The IMEI was then employed as the user ID for the given app. In a number of instances, the app subsequently forwarded the user’s IMEI on to an online advertising network, says Neil Daswani, Dasient’s chief technology officer. […]

    Meanwhile, in other research, Balachander Krishnamurthy at AT&T Labs Research and Craig E. Wills of Worcester Polytechnic Institute recently discovered hard evidence of what many privacy advocates feared: Tracking data about what pages you click to are increasingly getting commingled with personal information you disclose on popular websites and on the premier social networks in alarming ways.

    In one case, the researchers documented how the supplier of a Facebook music-sharing application automatically forwarded Facebook members’ profile information onto a tracking data aggregator.

    Read the full article for much more on online tracking and targeted behavioral advertising.

    One Response to “USA Today: Web tracking has become a privacy time bomb”

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