Online Information & Marketers

I felt really optimistic when I read this article in Wall Street Journal called "An Icon to Tell You About Web Tracking on Ads." The article referred to a new icon making users aware of the behaviorally targeted advertising that has become popular in most of the Web ads recently. According to the article, the idea of this icon was initiated by a group of online marketing associations for the sake of developing stricter and firmer regulation for the online data collection. The icon which is basically a light blue triangle with the letter "i" in the middle will show online users that the a specific company is following self-regulatory advertising principles. It is worth noting that a company can possibly use some phrases like "Why did I get this ad?" and "Ad Choices" to make consumers knowledgeable about behavioral data collection and privacy along with the icon itself.

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To have a look at "An Icon to Tell You About Web Tracking on Ads," please visit:
[http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2010/10/04/an-icon-to-tell-you-about-web-tracking-on-ads/]

"One of the fastest-growing businesses on the Internet, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found, is the business of spying on Internet users." Julia Angwin - "The Web's New Gold Mine: Your Secrets"

With respect to this investigation, Wall Street Journal "conducted a comprehensive study that assesses and analyzes the broad array of cookies and other surveillance technology that companies are deploying on Internet users. It reveals that the tracking of consumers has grown both far more pervasive and far more intrusive than is realized by all but a handful of people in the vanguard of the industry."

"Tracking technology is getting smarter and more intrusive. Monitoring used to be limited mainly to "cookie" files that record websites people visit." Julia Angwin - "The Web's New Gold Mine: Your Secrets"

The Journal was able to find out "some new tools that scan in real time what people are doing on a Web page, then instantly assess location, income, shopping interests and even medical conditions. Some tools surreptitiously re-spawn themselves even after users try to delete them." This actually makes us more cautious when having access to various websites especially those that involve online shopping.

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It was shocking to find out in the article that "Microsoft Corp.'s popular Web portal, MSN.com, planted a tracking file packed with data: It had a prediction of a surfer's age, ZIP Code and gender, plus a code containing estimates of income, marital status, presence of children and home ownership."

Legal Implications

It is really strange that despite all these online data-tracking efforts that happen, the courts in the United States and other countries did not react quickly to stop such efforts forcibly. It is mentioned in the article that "the U.S. courts have ruled that it is legal to deploy the simplest type, cookies, just as someone using a telephone might allow a friend to listen in on a conversation. Courts haven't ruled on the more complex trackers."

To have a look at "The Web's New Gold Mine: Your Secrets," please visit:
[http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703940904575395073512989404.html]