Somebody's Watching You
A lot has changed since Rockwell’s paranoia-infused “Somebody’s Watching Me” lyrics gave voice to fear that our every move is being watched. Today, technology advancements have put a new slant on that paranoia. Most of us wouldn’t be so cavalier as to leave our credit card or social security number lying around in public, but have you given thought to how technology is compromising your privacy?
The technology we use every day – connecting with friends on Facebook, chatting with colleagues and clients via instant messaging applications or downloading music, white papers and other content – can all be used to monitor your behavior online. This private information is also being stored and sold, often without you ever knowing about it.
According to a large-scale study of consumer attitudes toward behavioral targeting conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication, 68 percent of Americans “definitely would not” allow advertisers to follow them online even if their online activities would remain anonymous. 19% “probably” would not allow this tracking.
However, online-tracking is happening – and it’s big business. Companies like RapLeaf are building databases on people including household income range, age range, gender and age of children in the household, as well as interests in topics such as religion, tobacco, and adult entertainment. They are also tapping voter-registration files, shopping histories, and social networking activities.
In the past, companies eased people's privacy concerns by claiming not to record their real name, addresses (home and e-mail), or credit card numbers in their database. Instead, they assigned an individual ID number and placed it in a cookie file on the computer hard drive, using that number to identify an individual's data in the database. That is now changing as identifying details are often being transmitted, and enabling companies to link this information back to a person's real name.
For companies building dossiers of their prospect and customer's activities and interests, they tout the ability to create a more personalized experience for their customers. That may not be enough benefit to outweigh the risks for individuals who are reluctant to have their online and offline lives documented for marketing purposes.Continued on the next page