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I watched a video on Ted that explains all those personalized ads in  my email home page and social networking profiles and how my personal data is up for sale.

As you surf the Web, information is being collected about you. Web tracking is not 100% evil — personal data can make your browsing more efficient; cookies can help your favorite websites stay in business. But, says Gary Kovacs, it’s your right to know what data is being collected about you and how it affects your online life. He goes on to talk about behavioral tracking and how the companies are earning big bucks selling personal data.

He says:

‘…just as the Internet has opened up the world for each and every one of us, it has also opened up each and every one of us to the world. And increasingly, the price we’re being asked to pay for all of this connectedness is our privacy. 

…with every click of the mouse and every touch of the screen, we are like Hansel and Gretel leaving breadcrumbs of our personal information everywhere we travel through the digital woods. We are leaving our birthdays, our places of residence, our interests and preferences, our relationships, our financial histories, and on and on it goes.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not for one minute suggesting that sharing data is a bad thing. In fact, when I know the data that’s being shared and I’m asked explicitly for my consent, I want some sites to understand my habits. It helps them suggest books for me to read or movies for my family to watch or friends for us to connect with. But when I don’t know and when I haven’t been asked, that’s when the problem arises. It’s a phenomenon on the Internet today called behavioral tracking, and it is very big business.

…We are not even two bites into breakfast and there are already nearly 25 sites that are tracking me. I have navigated to a total of four.

So let me fast-forward through the rest of my day. I go to work, I check email, I log onto a few more social sites, I blog, I check more news reports, I share some of those news reports, I go look at some videos, pretty typical day — in this case, actually fairly pedantic — and at the end of the day, as my day winds down, look at my profile. The red dots have exploded. The gray dots have grown exponentially. All in all, there’s over 150 sites that are now tracking my personal information, most all of them without my consent.

…Privacy is not an option, and it shouldn’t be the price we accept for just getting on the Internet. Our voices matter and our actions matter even more.

These guys have launched Collusion. You can download it, install it in Firefox, to see who is tracking you across the Web and following you through the digital woods. Going forward, all of our voices need to be heard. Because what we don’t know can actually hurt us. Because the memory of the Internet is forever. We are being watched. It’s now time for us to watch the watchers.’

But just as the Internet has opened up the world for each and every one of us, it has also opened up each and every one of us to the world. And increasingly, the price we’re being asked to pay for all of this connectedness is our privacy. Today, what many of us would love to believe is that the Internet is a private place; it’s not. And with every click of the mouse and every touch of the screen, we are like Hansel and Gretel leaving breadcrumbs of our personal information everywhere we travel through the digital woods. We are leaving our birthdays, our places of residence, our interests and preferences, our relationships, our financial histories, and on and on it goes.

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