Friday, February 19, 2010

What you can do about your privacy.

One word two parts; opt-out.  My last post was about privacy (specifically Facebook) but it seemed a little whiney to me so I thought I'd write a follow up.  Privacy is not entirely out of our hands it just takes a little effort.  One of my main concerns was tracking cookies. Lots of advertising sites put cookies that monitor your online behavior and report back whenever you stumble onto another site that uses the same advertising company.  What can you do about it? Well you could disable cookies alltogether.  That would prevent you from using a lot of sites that you like though. Any site with login is generally broken when you don't accept cookies. You could try disabling third party cookies (cookies from sites that provide services to the site you're on like ads and video hosting) but this breaks many webmail and media rich sites.  The final solution, and the best in my opinion, because it doesn't degrade the internet experience in the slightest is to opt out of the advertisers programs. This link will opt you out from a number of data collection "services".  This puts an anonymous cookie on your machine that tells advertisers not to follow you around. It's won't protect you from full on malicious sites and you'll still see ads though they won't have creepy voyeuristic tendencies...  You have to keep the cookie on your machine for it to work but there's a handy plugin for firefox users that will restore the special opt-out cookies if they get deleted by accident.  Why would advertisers do this you ask? Isn't userdata their lifeblood?  Simple, if they don't the FTC may decide to intervene.  Right now the advertisers have to play by the rules or uncle sam is going to put the squeeze on them.  So take advantage of this moment of weakness in corporate control and make a habit of looking for opt-out options on every site you visit so we all can take back our data.

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