Shannon’s Corner

My Conversation on Social Media

The Cookie Monster?

While reviewing the potential dangers to internet safety, it naturally led me to consider our individual internet security. 

 

Earlier this month, Facebook and Google testified before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee regarding Privacy Implications for Online Advertising.  The hearing discussed whether or not internet users’ privacy rights are compromised when “cookies” are collected.  Cookies or online tags are placed by advertisers on a computer’s hard drive and then it tracks and records the searches of the user.  The debate involves whether or not Congress, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should enact rules on how this information is gathered and used.

 

On the one hand, Google argues that now online ads are targeted to specific users already identified as interested and therefore more helpful to both advertisers and the user.   On the other hand, users need to understand that their personal search data is being collected and stored – often without their consent. To those who think the search data is harmless, the FTC’s Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Lydia Parnes, raised a dramatic example at the hearing. In 2006 an employee of AOL made public the search records of some 658,000 internet users and the New York Times was able to identify a vast majority of those people based on the search information released.

 

Is this information collecting simply part of searching the internet and do we, as participants in the online community, understand and accept this?  Or, are online advertisers internet “peeping toms” and should users have the ability to turn this data collection on or off as we see appropriate?

 

It seems to me that while we want to continue e-commerce growth and maintain a free and democratic internet, users need to be made aware of the complete picture involving online advertising.  Without the consumers full consent, we lose control of how our own personal information is used in the future.  While we may be targeted with user specific ads today, where does this information go tomorrow?  Is it sold to the highest bidder for something else?  How will we know without some kind of user guidelines?  Shouldn’t we know or do we already accept some loss of privacy when we log on to the internet and join the online community?  Before it’s too late, I think we need more on and off-line discussions about this issue.

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July 19, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment