The internet and social network privacy threat: It is for real

Facebook is a free network. They do not charge a single $ for your login.Everyone is allowed to use all the features without any preference for the other . You can even use it to promote your blog or your website. Facebook allows you to do it all for free, without even asking you to fill up any feedback or survey forms.

So how does Facebook make money? Like every enterprise Facebook needs to make money to pay its bills. So, what is the product that Facebook sells? The things that its users shares and it collects. . Whatever users do, like, write, search is analysed by Facebook and then used to create useful segments for its advertisers( no where I am suggesting that it provides personally identifiable data).

I am not that much scared by sharing of the data, by Facebook . It might be provided to the advertisers but it would be done with a lot of caring. It is property of Facebook and normally companies are very competitive and secretive about their properties.

I am more worried about a sinister thing. All the social network tracking along with ad tracking that goes on behind your back. People who are do not know about internet technologies that much( I am sure even geeks are not that much aware ) are falling in the trap. I am worried because at Facebook and other network you have some control over your privacy but with tracking you have none. A tech site that I recently looked at tracked me in following ways.

Privacy Threat

Click to enlarge

 

In a last few days I have been tracked  (and now successfully blocked) by advertisers more than 5000 times. But I am wondering how much I was tracked before. I knew that most of the sites that I visit have analytical code to track for example where I am from, my browser type and many other things. But the data probably cannot be globally used to identify what I do or who I am .

Till now.

There are so many ways to track users : I found an excellent article here that how your online activities ( browsing sites, listening to music, searching ) can be tracked by thousands of companies  http://www.abine.com/tracking.php

 

 

Another tracking happens like this  Facebook tracking .

In this picture social network is prodding me to like the post. It already knows I am here and viewing the content. It is personally identifiable information and though it remains with the social network still strongly identifies me. It is a serious invasion of privacy. Why I am more worried about Facebook? Because it is everywhere ( even on my blog Sad smile ).

But I have found the savior which can protect me from many threats. Its called as TACO, its a very handy add on to Firefox and blocks a lot of things. You can customize it to suit your needs for every site that you visit. It is really very simple.

Living with social media is a reality and frankly we cannot do much without it  but allowing it to profile us based on what we share is quite troublesome.

What do you feel about privacy threats to yourself? What steps you take to avoid them?

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Your comments and replies

  • Privacy threats will always be present in the Internet, especially in social networking sites. Our personal information is what usually makes these sites survive. I mean if it’s not, then why ask for them in the first place? Now it doesn’t mean that they’re violating our privacy or anything. But it’s the core of their existence. It’s up to us if we’re going to be comfortable with it or not. A lot of people seem to already.

    • Hi Vernoica,
      I totally agree that we know what information we are sharing. I am more worried about sinister code that tracks us across the sites without us knowing it or even consenting to it. If I have a way to opt out of this tracking then I can easily do so. Without me knowing if they are collecting the data and utilizing it, I am not sure , how it is going to be used.

  • Hi Ashvini,

    I know this is an issue that is not going to go away anytime soon. I think what most people have to remember is that any social networking site such as Facebook, anyone who is connected to you can read all about you. If you visit other sites through Facebook, they now have your information as well.

    I do know that employers are now checking up on potential candidates for jobs by what they are doing online. I personally agree with Max on that issue, I have nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed about that I have put online or sites I’ve visited. I’m all on the up and up.

    The good thing with me is I never have to worry about this because I work for myself and this isn’t an issue for me. I just think that more people need to take better measures when posting online if they don’t want some people to see what they share. Then I would have a reason to be concerned.

    I appreciate you bringing this to our attention though. I will be sure and read this other article. I’d still like to know who is following me where and why. Never hurts to be aware of what’s going on behind my back.

    ~Adrienne

    • Hey Adrienne,

      In my opinion, we are paying the price because we are using the service for free( pun intended). In fact we are giving out so much info that if the market research companies were to collect data it would take years and billions of dollars.
      I am normally not worried about giving out info that people know about me already. However sometimes, we don’t want anyone to know about what we are doing, because we consider it private. If it was spread out and could not point to me , it was great but these hidden techniques make sure that I am profiled.
      I learned about a site, I don’t remember the name where you can just put the name and it will tell you everything ( salary, home address and many other things for free). With a paid version , you can know more about anyone. I think it is very troublesome.
      We need to be more careful about the way we are tracked and its probably more sinister than we think.
      I am happy that you liked the post :) Glad to see you here once again :)

  • Hi Ashvini,

    It would be very interesting to give people a choice: a premium membership to Facebook ($10/year) versus free but you’re tracked. What percentage would choose the $10/year premium membership? Very low, I imagine.

    I read a fascinating book you might enjoy too, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. The book is an entertaining and enlightening discussion of how companies such as Google and Facebook make billions without charging users for their services. http://www.amazon.com/Free-Future-Radical-Price-ebook/dp/B002DYJR4G/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322655755&sr=1-5

    We have grown all too accustomed to our privacy being leeched.

    • Hey Carolyn,
      I am all in for a paid membership provided my information is kept secret. I think probably its time that someone brings out a product, that is FB like, charged and full of privacy controls( within the law). If it is cheap enough, I think quite a number of people will take it up. Or if it is made an aspirational product , fees could be much higher. It cannot ever match free but there would be a small niche market , in my opinion.
      Thanks for your suggestion about the book. Let me go and check it out :). Looks interesting

  • In fact I have known about it, but I am not worried so much as I don’t have any secret and important information. I don’t think that somebody needs my personal information in order to advertize some products. But at the same time I think that Facebook should care more about the privacy in general.

    • Hey Max,
      Its not really about being secretive about your information. There are somethings that I do not want to tell anyone . For e.g. if I get ill with cold and cough with fever a few times and I search for the solution, sure that detail is logged.
      It might not be a big deal but if I was an employer hiring you , and I had access to this information, I would sure like to take a hard look at you once again. You really do not control what I see and what I think may be relevant and I may have different standards than you do. I hope you get what I am trying to say ( even though example was simplistic).
      Thanks for your comment :)

  • Hi Ashvini, what a coincidence ! I had my last post based on the same issue and it seems we both are worried over this tracking thing. Yes…there is no issue if our details are being used for targeting better ads but to spy us anywhere and everywhere, I see it as a biggest invasion of one’s privacy. Facebook may keep saying this and that but ultimately it has turned out to be biggest stalker of one’s privacy as explained in my most recent post. Honestly, no one likes to be tracked at least not when you have logged out from a service but I wonder what these companies are upto. I wish to have a simple solution to this problem – OptIn or OptOut. I guess most will OptOut and so I do not see it being implemented anytime. I think we all have to live with the same thing. Nothing looks to be going in our favor..!

    Aswani's latest article :Facebook - The ultimate online stalker in our social lives

    • Hey Aswani,

      What a coincidence!!! I read somewhere that FB was tracking us very strongly and then I saw your article. I thought I should share my views on it. I think the time has come that people start paid networks that charge money and do not spy on their users. You would have to pay let us say 10$ per year for using the network. In return, no tracking , no invasion, no sharing will be done. What do you say?

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