On the web just about everything we do is recorded or tracked in some way. The digital footprints of our online lives are collected for all sorts of reasons, advertising primary among them, and while some companies collect data on individuals, others collect data and then combine information to identify trends. Either way, personal online privacy is eroded. Guiding children toward an understanding that nothing they do on the web is private is one of the greatest responsibilities of digital era parenting
The Wall Street Journal is publishing a series on privacy, describing how the digital documentation of our online lives is affecting our private lives and explaining the steps individuals and families can take to protect their privacy. A graphic in the series provides readers with step-by-step instructions to make Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer protect privacy.
Another part of the Journal series, a July 30, 2010 article, Sites Feed Personal Details to New Tracking Industry, provides additional information about tracking, detailing the steps that occur when a group collects a user’s information and then sells that information to companies and advertisers.
The article features a graphic on the upper left that walks readers through the steps that trackers use to install cookies –information gathering mini-programs. Just below that, still on the left, is a recording of reporter Christina Tsuei explaining how cookies work.
According to the article, written by reporters Julia Angwin and Tom McGinty:
The tracking files represent the leading edge of a lightly regulated, emerging industry of data-gatherers who are in effect establishing a new business model for the Internet: one based on intensive surveillance of people to sell data about, and predictions of, their interests and activities, in real-time.