The amount of companies tracking all of our online movements is really astounding. There are literally hundreds of companies building profiles of us, all for the purpose of selling those profiles to advertisers.
In today's interactive advertising ecosystem, data has become a valuable form of currency. In fact, an April report from Adap.tv and DIGIDAY found a significant majority of marketers in North America used data to enhance their ad targeting efforts. – eMarketer
The way that businesses market is directly related to their beliefs about people. If you believe that people don't know what they want, you don't ask. Instead, you track everything they do and run algorithms in attempt to figure it out.
If, on the other hand, you believe that even if people don't know what they want they do know what they want to accomplish, you talk with them and attempt to get to the heart of the matter.
The challenge? Time and cost.
Stop The Watchers From Watching You
If you're wondering just how many companies are tracking you (and perhaps want to stop them from doing so), here are a few free resources. I've used all of these and can vouch for their ease of use.
Google Chrome Extensions
- SelectOut – opt-out of more than 190 tracking networks
- Ghostery – see which companies are tracking you
- Collusion – find out which sites you haven't visited are tracking you thanks to the one you're on
- Cookies Manager+
- Disconnect for Facebook, Google and Twitter
Personally I'm a fan of Google Chrome, however Collusion from Mozilla (the people that make Firefox) is really super cool. What it shows you is all of the sites that are tracking you thanks to the one you're on. Here's what I mean.
I cleared the cookies, history, and everything else in Firefox. I then visited TechCrunch.com (owned by AOL). Collusion shows me that in addition to Techcrunch, 5 other websites have put cookies in my browser. Those sites are:
I then clicked on the first blog post I found, which added another cookie from google.com. Interestingly, when I clicked on the Techcrunch logo to go back to the home page, I picked up a few more cookies, this time from aol.com and atwola.com.
So within 3 clicks on a single website I now found myself with 9 cookies, 8 of which are from sites I did NOT visit.
Now let me tell you this – that's nothing. I've been using Chrome now for a few months with the SelectOut extension and I have more than 92 tracking cookies on my browser. Yay!
So Here's The Question…
What do you think about this? Are you concerned that all of these companies are tracking our movements online in order to build profiles on us? Or does it not really concern you?