Automated Tracking and Profiling…you are being tracked!

Profiles are very valuable for many companies in customising their services to suit their customers, in order to increase revenues. The clear intent of behavioural targeting is to track users over time and build profiles of their interests, characteristics (such as gender, age and ethnicity) and shopping activities. For example, advertising or publishing companies use behavioural targeting to display advertisements that closely reflect the users interests.

It can be argued that the customisations resulting from profiling are also beneficial to the users that only receive information relevant to their interest. However, it creates serious privacy concerns since it allows some companies or institutions to gather and concentrate a huge amount of information about their customers, and about Internet users in general.

The danger is to move into a surveillance society or Internet, where all our online or physical activities are recorded and correlated. It can be argued that the customisations resulting from profiling are also beneficial to the users that only receive information relevant to their interest. However, it creates serious privacy concerns since it allows some companies or institutions to gather and concentrate a huge amount of information about their customers, and about Internet users in general.

The ways in which private companies track online user behaviour, and their implications for privacy, are increasing;  Cookies, social plug-ins and canvas fingerprinting are used throughout the Web. Their persistent popularity is partly due to the convenience they offer users.

Session cookies allow browsers temporarily to store data entered into online forms before submission.

Security cookies enable secure transactions upon which online banking and e-commerce depend.

Social plug-ins enable users to share articles through Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. Single log-ins (for example, “Sign in with Facebook”) enable users to interact with sites without creating hundreds of user profiles.

 

The trade-off for this convenience is “a shockingly extensive, robust, and profitable surveillance architecture” (Schneier 2015).

Dozens of different companies’ cookies are tracking users on popular sites; one site installed 200 tracking cookies on a user’s browser.

DoubleClick (a Google company) enables targeted advertising to follow users as they browse. Single logins enable Facebook and other providers to track users — even those who are not logged into Facebook .

Whereas the privacy implications of cookies have been well understood by policy makers for more than a decade, other tracking techniques might not be covered by the relevant legislation. Canvas fingerprinting and other tracking methods (such as evercookies and respawning) are widely used (Eckerslley and Opsahl 2014). These techniques uniquely identify users from their devices, are not transparent to users and are dif cult to disable without significant loss of functionality.

Profiling and categorisation can be beneficial for consumers: credit card fraud prevention relies on identifying breaks from a consumer’s standard patterns of spending (Schneier 2015); targeted advertising has the potential to inform consumers about products or services they might enjoy. At the same time, profiling “can unwittingly lead to discrimination on grounds of race, gender, religion or nationality” (Council of Europe 2014b).

It can also invade privacy: a father complained to the budget retailer Target that his teenage daughter had been sent coupons for baby products. It turned out that Target’s “pregnancy prediction score” knew more than the girl’s father did — his daughter was, indeed, pregnant (Duhigg 2012).

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source: Deibert 2013; MacKinnon 2012; Schneier 2015; Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier 2013. The Stasi (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, abbrev.) was the state security service of the German Democratic Republic from 1950 to 1989.2. See www.google.org/ utrends/about/how.html.3.Court of Justice of the European Union judgment in Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner (6 October 2015) Case C-362/14 (http://curia.europa.eu/juris/documents.jsf?num=C-362/14) was issued after this paper was written.picture:https://theintercept.com/2015/09/25/gchq-radio-porn-spies-track-web-users-online-identities/accessed23/12/17

 

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