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Online Privacy

Details

Online privacy – an option

The other day as I was cleaning out the cookie files on my computer, the sheer number of them was appalling. It sure seems like I cannot go to any website without my user data being grabbed and used by the advertising/data mining/market research companies. I know that this is repeatedly excused as "this is why the internet is free", but give me a break!

You know what I am talking about . . . go to a website and next time you open the browser, all the ads (from multiple companies) are targeted at what you expressed an interest in when you entered that other website. Sort of convenient I guess, but what it represents is a grab of your information by one of those internet marketing/research companies (Doubleclick, Google Analytics, Predicta, MerchantAdvantage, etc.) that is then sold/provided to the companies that put those ads on your browser page. Somehow this doesn't make me feel real comfortable. What to do? I found an interesting and useful extension that is available for most browsers that shows you who is grabbing your data on each website, and allows you to block it.

GhosteryGhostery (www.ghostery.com) is a free extension that provides at least a level of comfort as you access the web. In the screen shot (from Firefox v.10) you can see the listing for the home page of www.arstechnica.com a popular tech site. It shows that when you hit that page there are five companies gathering data. In this case I have the extension set to block all of these companies – they got nothing from me. You can whitelist a website, after you see who is watching. This is what is generally supposed to accomplished with the "don't track me" standards that the W3C is working on now with the browser companies. I suspect it is going to take quite a while for all this to work itself out, but in the meantime what do you do?

I have been playing with Ghostery for a few days, and it seems to work well, has gotten positive reviews in the tech press, and lots of kudos from users. Give it a try!!

   
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