Poch Peralta

Freelance Writer / Blogger,


This conversation is closed.

Do You Care Being Tracked Online by Marketers?

The Upside of Being Tracked Online
I really don't care much since our online activities will never be entirely private anyway.

'Tracking by online marketers can be annoying and even feel like an invasion of your privacy. But before you decide to go incognito, there are a few good reasons you may want to be tracked online.

'Before we get into the upside of having your online movements followed, we need to look at how it works. First, know that there is no real way around being tracked in some fashion or another. For years, third-party advertisers have used a combination of your browsing history, demographic information and purchase history to assemble a profile of your online habits to send targeted, personalized ads your way, in a process called online behavioral advertising, or OBA...'

Here’s how OBA works

  • Dec 11 2013: I hate it, block it and have changed the code in my browser to try to block tracking cookies. I also implemented a router to block information.
    • thumb
      Dec 11 2013: I could see how much you hate it Wayne lol.
      I guess you don't use free apps or freeware.
      • Dec 11 2013: only after I check them out myself line by line and compile them myself from a source I know is clean.
        • thumb
          Dec 11 2013: We have a pure coder!

          I like your style Wayne, wish I had the skills/energy to do this.
        • thumb
          Dec 11 2013: How do you support web devs for their freeware
          if you block ads that support them?

          I thought I was paranoid about online safety until
          I read Wayne's reply lol
  • thumb
    Dec 8 2013: I believe the issue is not exactly being tracked online, but being tracked without your permission. Usually when an app or a web that I use frecuently ask me if I want to provide them with information to improve the content I visualize in the app/web or to improve the app/web future performance, my response is yes. I actually prefer personalized results, as far as its done right. The problem comes when the information is gathered without your knowledge or your permission. That is when I, as an user, feel that the web/app is intruding.

    As you very well said, it is really hard these days to be completely anonymous. If there is some part of my personal life or my work that I feel should keep strictly confidential, I simply keep it as away from the internet as I can.
    • thumb
      Dec 8 2013: I also answer surveys or polls by app devs Julio.
      And more importantly, I also avoid privacy intrusion whenever
      I can. I see your point and agree.
  • thumb
    Jan 1 2014: TL;DR - Yes.

    I use the NoScript add-on for Firefox when I do browsing that requires a standard modern browser. I set "Filter noscript tags" in the options, and while this isn't perfect, it prevents a lot of unnecessary resource loading.

    If I'm just browsing the web for information and images aren't necessary, I usually use elinks. I set my User-Agent string to something common when I use uncommon browsers, so that I better blend in with Chrome or Firefox users.

    On my smart phone, I use two browsers - I disable images, cookies and javascript on one, and that makes for me a mobile elinks-equivilant. Again if I'm just reading information, images aren't necessary, and do more harm than good. My other browser is Firefox mobile, with the Self Destructing cookies add-on.

    I rooted my phone in order to disable system apps and control which apps have internet access and start at boot. I use AFWall for a firewall, with which I can allow or deny any app's access to WiFi or 4G. I also use Adaway to establish ad-blocking rules, and I manually add domains to my hosts file if necessary. I religiously monitor app permissions, and stick to (well maintained) open-source apps whenever possible. On my computers I only use open source software.

    As of now, this all seems like the best I can do to steer clear of OBA. I've thought about writing a Firefox add-on to give myself more fine-tuned control over resource loading, but I have yet to get around to it.

    As for government surveillance, the above may help a bit, but steering clear of that isn't really my goal. I keep up on recent findings and I certainly consider nation-state-level surveillance to be an existential threat to the very notion of freedom. But personally for myself, keeping out of OBA is more of an immediate concern.
    • thumb
      Jan 1 2014: Now I know you're a techie Fred.
      I also use NoScript, Firefox, and Chrome. I know very little about personally securing a
      smartphone since I only borrow one when I rarely need it. I use my netbook as my phone.
      You might want to use Firefox's Self-DestructingCookies too. Excellent app.

      '...keeping out of OBA is more of an immediate concern...'

      I'm not as strict as you are blocking both fed surveillance and OBA. Like Jimmy said:
      'I just don't care enough to protect me all the time, since it's such a big hassle to go
      (almost) fully anonymous...'
      • thumb
        Jan 1 2014: It certainly is a hassle. But I believe that's the challenge for interested developers - to make it less so.

        Imagine if in order to use https, a regular web user had to generate and negotiate their own keys, as with PGP. It wouldn't happen! The only reason we can enjoy that degree of privacy with mainstream services is because developers put in the work to make it possible, to make it work behind the scenes and to convince services to adopt it.

        That's the same re-occurring story that's behind every privacy-tech we enjoy. Imagine if public key crypto was never developed, and crypto had remained solely military tech for decades to come. We owe a lot to the anti-NSA tinfoil-hatters of the 60's.

        So looking at things today, we have a lot of exploitation happening beneath everyones' nose. But it could certainly be worse, and it can certainly be better. I make plenty of concessions myself when it comes to my electronic footprint, for the exact reason you and Jimmy state. But I'm also very interested in working towards making those concessions unnecessary - big hassles only signify wants and needs of society that could be better met, with the help of interested developers.

        I should add, some of the biggest problems that need solving in this area aren't technological, but sociological and business-oriented. How can one run an online service "for free", without resorting to ad-driven or OBA-driven sources of funding? Is the "personal data for free service" trade fair and informed, or is it more akin to using candy to lure children into a vehicle? If there's something about OBA that doesn't sit right with us, then a big challenge for us is finding an alternative form of revenue for free services. And that's not something one needs to be a developer to contribute to.
        • thumb
          Jan 1 2014: How can one run an online service "for free", without resorting
          to ad-driven or OBA-driven sources of funding?

          I'm confident you'll find an answer for that and implement it. I saw your

          '...Is the "personal data for free service" trade fair and informed, or is it
          more akin to using candy to lure children into a vehicle?...'
          This is where I get mad and get strict. There are tech sites that act as
          'middlemen' for free apps. Whenever I install the app, the app becomes
          troublesome and I forget about supporting app devs.

          'If there's something about OBA that doesn't sit right with us, then a big
          challenge for us is finding an alternative form of revenue for free services.
          And that's not something one needs to be a developer to contribute to...'

          So the issue of apathy rises again. Sadly, most netizens just don't care.
  • Dec 9 2013: The market is tracking the ted conversation also and doing research and analysis to know in which direction the wind of need and desire is flowing.
    • thumb
      Dec 9 2013: I'm not surprised Santokh. No website that allows it
      is exempt from corporate tracking.
  • thumb
    Dec 9 2013: I care, I just don't care enough to protect me all the time, since it's such a big hassle to go (almost) fully anonymous.
    • thumb
      Dec 9 2013: I should say exactly that myself too Jimmy. Same mind here.
  • thumb
    Dec 8 2013: since I'm blocking the pop-up ads, why should I care?
    • thumb
      Dec 8 2013: Ahh...you just read my mind because that's a topic I
      want to get into:-) If you use free apps or freeware, you
      will hurt the app creators because ads are one of their meager
      income sources. I delete ad cookies but don't ban ads. Great
      seeing you again buddy and thanks.
      • thumb
        Dec 8 2013: well, that is the chance they take, isn't it, Poch? If you delete cookies, you will hurt them, too, in a distant sense, the ads won't be as well-targeted and thus you won't buy as much.
        • thumb
          Dec 8 2013: I forgot to say I don't delete all cookies.
          And even if I delete all cookies, it wouldn't hurt the
          app devs very much as blocking ads.
      • thumb
        Dec 8 2013: well, for me time is precious, Poch. I just don't want to give the time to watch an ad. If I have something I want to buy, I'll just go out and shop for it.
        • thumb
          Dec 8 2013: You don't have to click on ads yourself to
          help app devs. You just allow ads so maybe others
          will use them and buy. I don't buy online too if I can
          buy outside.
      • thumb
        Dec 8 2013: I apologize, Poch, I'm not following you. If I allow ads on my computer, how maybe will others use them and buy? In general I'm the only person who uses my computer.
        • thumb
          Dec 8 2013: lol Those ads don't appear just on your PC.
          They appear on ALL websites that accept the ads.
      • thumb
        Dec 8 2013: right poch but I can only block them to my PC, right? I block them on my PC because I don't want to spend the time it takes to read them or watch them.
        • thumb
          Dec 8 2013: I also block some ads that are too annoying.
          I'm not promoting advertisers Greg. I'm trying to help
          the poor app devs earn a little as gratitude.
      • thumb
        Dec 8 2013: yeah, poch, is it the internet service provider who gives you the option to block popups? I would tend to think that if the internet service provider is allowing you to block popups, someone at the provider has figured it all out, that the economics are such that the web can still succeed with some people blocking popups. If a person uses the website but blocks the ads, he or she is still going to tell people about the website, and other people are going to go there who will watch the ads. In that way a person who doesn't watch the ads himself, or herself, still helps the app developers. Also, if you buy stuff online, even if you block the ads, some of the money from your purchases goes to the app developers.