Online Privacy: What Are You Doing About It?

Feb 20, 2013

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Everyone talks about online privacy, but does anyone actually do anything about it? Most adults are aware that they need to do something to protect themselves and their information online, but unfortunately, that’s as far as it goes for the majority of them. Just 38% of adults said that they were “aware of ways to limit how much information websites can collect about them” in a recent survey.

It’s hard to read through the pages and pages of dense, and sometimes misleading, language that comprise the privacy policies for most of the sites we sign up for. We just want to start using the services, so we agree to terms without knowing exactly what we’re getting into.

And that’s where they get you. The problem is that there are so many free sites that have become almost integral parts of our day, such as Facebook and Google. These kinds of sites can get away with being free because they have cookies that track your every movement online, not just while you’re on their site.

They do this so they can sell the information to advertisers, who can use that information to build a personal profile of you in order to better target ads to you. If you spend a lot of time on parenting blogs, then the odds are that you’re a parent, so advertisers will give you ads for products that are geared towards parenthood. There are ways to opt out of these sites tracking you with cookies, but sometimes, even if you say you want out, the sites simply ignore you and continue to track your every move. The only way to completely opt out is to not sign up in the first place.

This can be really disconcerting when it’s not just you, but your kids that the sites are tracking. It’s illegal to collect personal information about children under 13, but that doesn’t stop a lot of sites. And if your children lie about their age, then nothing is stopping sites from tracking them, because they presume that your child is legal.

These personalized profiles of your children could include such information as their name, age, location, favorite sites to visit, and what type of ads they click on most often. This information could be sold to anyone who could use it for any purpose.

It’s worth taking the time to read through the privacy policies of sites you’re signing up for to see if and how they’re tracking you. If you’re not comfortable with what they’re doing with your information, don’t give it to them by not signing up for the site.

I work for Net Nanny and all opinions are my own.