Sunday, December 21, 2008

Online privacy? Nah...

When browsing the web, especially if you use Google, Microsoft Internet Explorer, or Yahoo, you're leaving more than cookie crumbs behind.

In a blog on 12/18/08, writer David Kravets explored Yahoo's recent announcement that they would keep user date for only 3 months, instead of 13 months. Google keeps users search data for 9 months and Microsoft for 18 months.

As a computer consultant, I've always explained that the data collected when we use the web and search engines was aggregated, so maybe they can dig through the data and know how many people in your zip code shop online for a Chevy. But now, with advanced technology and plenty of money, these firms are mining for data to a degree beyond what we ever imagined. They now put everything together in a profile for, in the case of this graphic, a 37-year-old male web user.

Because all of our web usage can be traced back to an internet protocol (IP) address, I don't doubt that its possible to trace such a specific profile back to a unique user. If the data is out there, I don't believe privacy rights are enough to keep our usage patterns private.

Kravets' report provides a link to a Yahoo paper entitled "Squeeze Every Drop of Meaning from Data,", and a presentation made by Yahoo about the ability to gather massive amounts of data, all for the purpose of helping gain ad revenue from advertisers delighted to have such precise profiles of their target audience.

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