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Online Data Collection Explodes Year Over Year in US

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

  1. SelectOut - opt-out of more than 190 tracking networks
  2. Ghostery - see which companies are tracking you
  3. Disconnect

Firefox Add-Ons

  1. Collusion - find out which sites you haven’t visited are tracking you thanks to the one you’re on
  2. Cookies Manager+
  3. 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:

  1. scorecardresearch.com
  2. adsbyisocket.com
  3. gravity.com
  4. adsonar.com
  5. quantserv.com

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.

Ad tracking from Techcrunch

Thanks for the cookies Techcrunch!

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?

Comments

  1.  @C_Pappas  I’ve been using PayPal for so long and I don’t mind them getting my information. Well, we have different opinions and I respect yours, Pappas.

  2.  @C_Pappas that’s interesting Christina. Why is that?

    •  @RobertDempsey Because I feel like it is more personal. It’s almost like when someone asks me how much I make. I dont want to answer that question, in most common situations, and I would prefer that what I spend and how much I spend is private as well.

      •  @C_Pappas interesting. But that doesn’t apply to banking or credit card companies? Or are you operating on all cash :) One thing I’m re-acclimating myself to here in the US is using a credit card for everything. Thailand was mostly cash only.

      •  @RobertDempsey True – I do use credit card online for all transactions. But I dont consider Visa a marketing company. Paypal on the other hand is owned by eBay. reduces my trust considerably.

      •  @C_Pappas very interesting Christina. Thanks.

  3. This doesnt bother me so much. What I did stop doing was using PayPal. Regardless of if you remove your cookies or not and sites are tracking your activity, I did not feel comfortable with PayPal tracking everything I bought, from any site, how much I am spending, etc. This data is more important to me to keep private vs. my navigations online.

  4. Thanks for this valuable information. I really don’t mind them tracking my movements online as long as they are not stealing information about me such as my email and other stuffs.
     
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