Posted in 21st Century life, data collecting, digital devices and gadgets, digital life, kids and privacy, parents and technology

Privacy 2015 Part II: Find Out How Invisible Trackers Collect Your Information

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 2.08.04 PMWe hear, over and over, about how people are tracked online. Now we have a way to watch for ourselves and learn. Download Ghostery and let it tell you who is keeping track of your data. When I downloaded it to my computers, it was so amazing that I could not believe my eyes!

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 2.57.06 PM
Ghostery identified 4 trackers on Word Press.

The quick install, available for every browser, makes it possible to identify and display any website tracker that is collecting information. As a user moves from website to website the number of trackers changes. It’s amazing, because, despite the fact that I have checked the box in my browser asking sites not to track me … they do.

At first I was skeptical, so I went to the Ghostery website to find out why a company would “out” so many other companies. There’s an enlightening video to watch and lots of information about how and why the company does what it does. Read more on the company’s about page.

If you don’t know much about tracking check out the first post in this series.

Once I installed the program on my Safari browser, an itty-bitty ghost icon appeared in the top menu. Each time I visit a website, the ghost displays a different number. The image at the upper right is taken from WordPress, which uses four trackers when I am blogging. Most of the time The New York Times see below) uses ten.  Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 3.03.52 PM

I can experiment with turning trackers on and off, although I’ve discovered that I may be turning off a website feature — for instance, a video or an animation. I’ve also noticed that different pages of the same site feature different numbers of trackers. When I visited National Public Radio, the main page features six trackers, but one article that I read had seven. Believe me, I am doing a lot of experimenting.

Check out Ghostery. The company has a great privacy policy, and it is possible for users to sign up to be a part of the tracking research (without being tracked) — and that is the company’s mission.

While we cannot — and may not want to stop many of the data trackers, Ghostery makes it all more transparent so it’s possible for us to learn more and make decisions about turning one or another off. Perhaps it even offers us a bit more privacy.

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