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COOKIE MONSTER: How To Make The Marketing Industrial Complex Stop Tracking Your Every Move


FRESH AIR: One of the fastest-growing online businesses is the business of spying on Internet users. Using sophisticated software that tracks people’s online movements through the Web, companies collect the information and sell it to advertisers. Every time you click a link, fill out a form or visit a website, advertisers are working to collect personal information about you, says Joseph Turow, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. They then target ads to you based on that information. On Wednesday’s Fresh Air, Turow — the author of the book The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth — details how companies are tracking people through their computers and cellphones in order to personalize the ads they see. Turow tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that tracking is ubiquitous across the Internet, from search engines to online retailers and even greeting card companies. A recent Valentine’s Day card sent to his wife, for instance, contained trackers from 15 separate companies. MORE

JOSEPH TUROW: At the start of the twenty-first century, the advertising industry is guiding one of history’s most massive stealth efforts in social profiling. At this point you may hardly notice the results of this trend. You may find you’re getting better or worse discounts on products than your friends. You may notice that some ads seem to follow you around the internet. Every once in a while a website may ask you if you like a particular ad you just received. Or perhaps your cell phone has told you that you will be rewarded if you eat in a nearby restaurant where, by the way, two of your friends are hanging out this very minute. You may actually like some of these intrusions. You may feel that they pale before the digital power you now have. After all, your ability to create blogs, collaborate with others to distribute videos online, and say what you want on Facebook (carefully using its privacy settings) seems only to confirm what marketers and even many academics are telling us: that consumers are captains of their own new-media ships. But look beneath the surface, and a different picture emerges. We’re at the start of a revolution in the ways marketers and media intrude in — and shape — our lives. Every day most if not all Americans who use the internet, along with hundreds of millions of other users from all over the planet, are being quietly peeked at, poked, analyzed and tagged as they move through the online world. Governments undoubtedly conduct a good deal of snooping, more in some parts of the world than in others. But in North America, Europe, and many other places companies that work for marketers have taken the lead in secretly slicing and dicing the actions and backgrounds of huge populations on a virtually minute-by-minute basis. Their goal is to find out how to activate individuals’ buying impulses so they can sell us stuff more efficiently than ever before. But their work has broader social and cultural consequences as well. It is destroying traditional publishing ethics by forcing media outlets to adapt their editorial content to advertisers’ public-relations needs and slice-and-dice demands. And it is performing a highly controversial form of social profiling and discrimination by customizing our media content on the basis of marketing reputations we don’t even know we have. MORE

LIFE HACKER: Whenever you visit a website, data about your visit is likely sent to advertisers, social networks, and other companies. Free browser add-on Do Not Track Plus not only tells you what data is being collected, it also blocks those attempts to share your information. Although “Do Not Track” browser options are available and there have been bills proposed to protect people’s online privacy, recently we’ve seen even more need for add-ons like Do Not Track Plus. Google and other advertising companies have apparently been bypassing the privacy settings of Safari users and Internet Explorer users, tracking them when they don’t want to be tracked. Do Not Track Plus, once installed, tells you when a website tries to send data to other companies and then blocks it. Social media buttons (Facebook like, Google +1, Twitter) still work when you click them, but when you don’t click on them, they’re not tracking you. Do Not Track Plus isn’t an ad blocker, so you’ll still see ads. But by installing Do Not Track Plus, you block third-party sites from putting cookies on your machine and seeing that you’ve visited a website. Clicking on the extension shows you more detail about each category of tracking company (there are hundreds) and how Do Not Track handles them. MORE

RELATED: A cookie, also known as an HTTP cookie, web cookie, or browser 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.[1] The state information can be used for authentication, identification of a user session, user’s preferences, shopping cart contents, or anything else that can be accomplished through storing text data on the user’s computer. Cookies cannot be programmed, cannot carry viruses, and cannot install malware on the host computer.[2] However, they can be used by spyware to track user’s browsing activities—a major privacy concern that prompted European and US law makers to take action.[3][4] Cookie data can also be illicitly disclosed by hackers to gain access to a victim’s web account. MORE

DOWNLOAD: Do Not Track Plus (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)

RELATED: Kamala Harris joined 35 attorneys general objecting to a new privacy policy that Google plans to roll out next week. The National Assn. of Attorneys General says the new policy invades consumer privacy by automatically sharing with all Google services personal information that users give to just one service. Google’s new privacy policy, which it announced Jan. 24, is slated to go into effect March 1. It will create a single privacy policy for all of its services such as Gmail, Maps and YouTube. That means Google will be able to include the videos a consumer watches on YouTube when it delivers search results, for example. Google says the policy will be easier for consumers to understand. “We’re continuing to offer choice and control over how people use our services,” said Google spokesman Chris Gaither. Consumer watchdogs don’t agree. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has sued the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to try to force the agency to take action against Google’s new privacy policy. A federal judge is considering the FTC’s motion to dismiss the case. The agency settled with Google last year over charges it shared user data without permission. The 20-year settlement resulted from a complaint that EPIC filed in 2010 over Google’s now defunct Buzz social network. MORE

RELATED: How To Remove Your Google Search History & Stop It From Being Recorded Going Forward

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