The Constitution (and legislation passed since), offers a very limited shield of individual privacy protection from governmental intrusion, and even less from corporate intrusion. Some people feel technology and privacy is incompatible, others believe one must take extraordinary lengths to guard one’s privacy. Irrespective of how you feel about privacy, it is a fact that the majority of websites you browse are individually tracking your activity—and thousands of Umbrella Trackers—are tracking you across all websites. Some of the largest Umbrella Trackers are facebook, addthis, google analytics, quantcast, alexa, compete, hubspot, siteimprove, and doubleclick.
Trackers that follow you across multiple websites are known as Umbrella Trackers; they are a common thread in the web of the Internet. Simple Trackers are unique to the site you are on, and by the unavoidable virtue of how web pages are recalled, every website tracks activity on some level. Simple trackers: When someone performs an Internet search, the search engine records: the search term, the location of the computer, the results it passed on to the searchee, and what has been clicked on (and sometimes what has been hovered over). From the search click, the website landed on begins tracking its own activity: where the searchee came from (search engine), what search terms were used, how long the searchee remains viewing the website, and everything else related to the site. If the searchee returns to the search engine, that will be recorded; if the searchee follows a new link, the search engine is in the dark as to where the searchee disappeared to.
Simple Tracking Chain
The above activity is known as a Simple Tracking Chain. It connects website 1 to website 2 and website 2 to website 3. Website 1 is generally unaware the browser went to website 3 (and vise versa), and only website 2 knows about website 1 and 3. Unless the websites decide to collectively share (buy and sell) information, they only know what the browser saw on its own pages.
If however, website 1, 2, and 3 have installed an Umbrella Tracker a third-party knows the browser traveled from website 1 to 2 and to 3 (and then to 4 etc). The Umbrella Tracker knows everything, for example: the time, place, subject matter, and the commonalities across all the websites browsed. Further, the Umbrella Tracker knows what the typical browser (in the aggregate) looks at after visiting websites like 1, 2, and 3. This way the Umbrella Tracker can provide very useful information to websites using its service, and to advertisers that look to only show an ad to a person who is interested. This valuable information about every person browsing on the Internet is collected, analyzed, and then sold every day.
Some information is more valuable than others, and some Umbrella Trackers have access to more information than others. A recent social media mood manipulation study published in the National Academy of Sciences represents the type of information available to certain Umbrella Trackers.
(see the two corrections later published by the journal partially in response to public concern ONE | TWO)
Whether or not the conclusions are accurate is irrelevant, an Umbrella Tracker such as this has access to not only the content of which websites are browsed but also how a browser ended up there—and what their mood may have been prior to arrival—and after.
There are options a person may take to reduce tracking.
The first is to limit exposure by controlling which Umbrella Trackers can follow you and where. Ghostery is one way to take control. Next is to limit what is shared with third parties; a simple rule to remember when using a free service is if you aren’t paying for it, you are not the customer, you are the commodity (whether it’s a free email service or social media). And finally, visit websites that aren’t making an attempt to track your movements in the first place.
Is Your Lawyer Tracking You?
With Ghostery enabled visit your lawyer’s website, odds are unless your attorney is at Zamzow PLLC your very private browsing habit information is being shared, and possibly in breach of the attorney-client relationship.
It is largely unrealistic to prevent your activity from being tracked. However, it is very realistic to put yourself in control of some of your own data. Without Internet Umbrella Tracking, advertisements would not be tailored to you. It is also unlikely social media would be as popular as it is either. The world would be different, for the better or worse, and that is for you to decide.
Consider when it comes to the law: E-Discovery may reveal your browsing activities and might be presented against you in court.