The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
How much privacy do you have on the Internet?
Hackers Yesterday. Corporations Today.
The Internet is one of the most useful resources there is. No longer do you have to step foot into a library, a store, or even a bar to meet someone. The Internet makes never leaving the house a real possibility. The majority of people put their trust in the Internet to get things done for them. There are plenty of people who also work on and through the Internet and use the Internet as their main source of income. The Internet allows for so much freedom, but there are many things you do that are being monitored from your computer or from the Internet itself that invade your privacy. It used to be that you had to worry about hackers getting into your computer, monitoring your keyboard strokes to figure out personal identifying information and credit cards, determining what websites you visited and the passwords. Nowadays, major corporations are monitoring your every action on the Internet.
Malware used to be the tool that both hackers and companies used to get your personal information and figure out what you want. You would download a program you wanted to use and along with it came some hidden software that seemed to consume nearly all your computers’ resources, monitoring what you did on your computer, and helping hackers or companies figure out what you do with your time on the Internet. The Internet has made it even easier than that through the use of browser toolbars, add ons, and cookies. Between Google, Facebook, and Amazon, you are worth a fortune with every website you visit.
Google became a huge culprit in the practice, monitoring your search engine habits, and later displaying similar things you searched for in the form of ads on a variety of websites through Adsense, also learning and recording everything you are searching for and remembering what you typed in. Facebook also began invading your privacy by monitoring your website behavior long after you logged out or while you were still logged in and no longer on the Facebook website. When you returned to the website, Facebook displays ads on the far left hand side or the far right hand side to match what it is you were searching for on the Internet or display similar interests to the websites you had visited. It is like they are reading your mind, trying to get you to buy through the ads. For example, I recently searched for customized pens for a client of mine.
Every website I visit that has Adsense is displaying to me companies that sell customized pens. Logging into Facebook also points out the fact that I can buy cheap customized pens. Amazon also sends me emails about my recent searches, though I never did search anything through Amazon, but they are offering a link to an area on their website that allows me to buy customized pens.
These companies are going beyond the point of invasion of privacy and learning your habits and behaviors, from the websites you visit to what you are searching for, attempting to sell to you, the consumer, at every moment similar items of your search queries.
There is always a Catch 22 with anything that is offered for free. Almost nothing is free and in this world, if the government or corporations could charge for the air we breathe, they probably would. Google is a major search corporation that relies on advertisement revenue for its funding. As you take advantage of the services Google provides for you, Google must take advantage of you using those services and gather all the information it can about you in order to keep and provide a majority of those services for free. They generate revenue by selling advertisement space. Considering that Google has millions of visitors, customers, and users using their products everyday, companies have an interest in advertising with Google.
These companies may go as far as recording your mailing address, which is usually found upon you checking out after you have bought something, and though they may never come to your house, they will not hesitate to send you more consumer magazine products in the physical mail in order to get you to buy more.
Privacy is the price of Capitalism and Consumerism. The “free Internet” comes with a price. For all that we get for
“free” and for living in a Consumerist nation, we may not personally give up our bank account information or personal information, but we willingly hand it all over eventually when we buy something. Handing over this personal information is probably more safer than handing it directly to a hacker because these companies do all they can to protect our personal information, though they are certainly under constant threat and attack by hackers and thieves to steal this personal information. As for privacy on the Internet, though most company websites disclose the type of information they collect, it is free reign for any company to set a cookie and collect any information about you without any consequences.
Matthew Gates is a freelance web designer and currently runs Confessions of the Professions.