News flash, say…Farewell to privacy, hello to Internet tracking

Image courtesy of breakthematrix.comYou may not realize it, but every time you access the Internet, you are being watched. As you navigate through web pages, conduct Google searches and creep on classmates’ Facebook walls, your activity is being logged. But why? Because the data is extremely valuable for advertisers.

A few weeks ago, I searched for a particular iPad case I’ve been looking into purchasing. In a separate window, I had Pandora Radio open. Anyone familiar with Pandora knows that a large advertisement sidebar changes randomly.

Minutes after searching for the Zaggmate iPad case, I navigated back to Pandora to skip to the next song only to find that my advertisement was now for the exact same iPad case I’d been searching for.

Coincidence? I think not. Google tracks every search we make. Facebook logs every post we make, every topic we like, every advertisement we click on. And, it stores everything we post even after we delete it. In Facebook’s Privacy Policy, it explicitly states that it is not responsible for the distribution of your information if you click on any link or advertisement that is simply using the Facebook Platform.

When was the last time you read a privacy policy or terms of agreement? Every time you update your iPad or iTunes, you’re prompted to accept the terms of use. Do you read them or just click “OK?”

According to Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, privacy is a thing of the past. Internet users already disclose tons of personal information, but now it’s gone a step further. Their interests are being used as an extravagant tool for advertising.

“It is the intention of social media sites to collect data about their users and determine their online preferences. That’s how they develop new social media channels and tactics,” said Lauren Dorsch, a 2010 graduate of Seton Hill University (SHU) who now works for a multibillion-dollar corporation in the Pittsburgh region.

Social media tools are more than just an outlet for students and adults to share their lives with friends. “[Facebook and Twitter] can be used to enhance, protect and enable the brand of a company and create brand awareness in ways that traditional advertising cannot,” said Dorsch, who uses social media from a professional standpoint as well as for personal reasons.

Since many companies and corporations are jumping on the social media bandwagon, there is major cause for concern because social media networks, especially Facebook, do more than just track your wanderings.

When a user logs onto Facebook from any electronic device, mobile or otherwise, he or she unknowingly gives Facebook access to not only history and cookies but the device’s IP address as well, which tells Facebook where you are, whether you “check in” or not.

It’s an invasion of privacy, plain and simple. Even though Facebook accepts that they have a very lax privacy policy, users shouldn’t simply accept it.Aside from clearing your history and cookies on a regular basis, there’s not much you can do to stop Facebook from obtaining this information. To protect yourself, limit what you post on Facebook, avoid clicking on advertisements and be very cautious when navigating elsewhere via the Facebook Platform.

Remember: Facebook holds no responsibility for companies or corporations who use its platform.

Don’t be a stranger to Internet privacy. Use these helpful tips to fight back. Remember, whatever you post online is there to say. There’s no “delete” button that will permanently remove information you post.

Protect your privacy

  • Delete your cookies and history weekly.
  • Avoid clicking on side advertisements when browsing on the Internet.
  • Don’t give your information to any company who suggest they might sell your information to others.
  • Use a psuedo-last name or even your middle name on Facebook and other social media networks rather than your real last name.
  • Actually read the privacy policy. Don’t just click OK or skim through it. If there’s something that you don’t understand or that draws a red flag, maybe you should rethink joining the network.
  • Create a “fun” email account for your social media networks so your “professional” account doesn’t get overrun or compromised.
  • Only “friend” people you actually know.

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