Spying On You With Permission, by Will Saunders

The concept of privacy is hilarious: it’s a big joke. I wrote on this topic previously in my post titled, Do We Really Have Any Privacy?The funniest part is, most people think they have much more than they’re actually getting. If you’re paying attention, you might notice what I have noticed, and there’s not much you can do about it.

So, check this out. I just did a search on Hilton.com for a trip I’m considering in mid-summer. A few minutes later when I went hang out on Instagram, one of the sponsored ads was for Hilton. I went to log my breakfast on MyFitnessPal, and the banner ad was for Hilton. Same is true for Twitter. I got an unsolicited, sponsored ad in my timeline for Hilton. Additionally, I kid you not, while I was double-checking to ensure I was correctly using ‘a while’ (as opposed to awhile) as I write this blog post – via Dictionary.com, I got a pop-up ad in the header for Hilton. So, I’m convinced this lack of privacy is much larger than most of us realize.

I know we don’t have privacy. If you use a computer, have a smart phone, and are connected technologically in any possible way, you have no privacy and this doesn’t even take into account the hackers who try to infiltrate various systems and steal our data. C’est la vie.

It’s more of a rant rather than a complaint, and it’s not really anybody’s blame or fault. If you ever bother to read the user agreement, terms of service, or whatever it’s called on these individual sites, they clearly indicate they routinely collect and share all sorts of information about us. No shock. But when signing up for an account on these sites, nobody (well most people I surmise), reads the agreements. They just click the accept button. I’m sure the same is true when they send out an update to their agreement. People don’t bother to read it. Do you? I bet you don’t. These sites need to install a positive acceptance feature. By that I mean, it should use data analytics software that requires us to at least scroll through the entire agreement before that accept button appears for us to click. Maybe that way we’ll be more likely to see a word or phrase here or there about how we are giving up our privacy by virtue of the fact we’re using these sites. But from various conversations I’ve held personally and professionally, many people don’t really care.

Here’s the kicker: people get their socks all out of joint when they hear a CNN or MSNBC report about a company that has  collected and shared their information that got hacked. Even if you visit the websites of CNN or MSNBC, they use cookies to track you (Big Brother is always watching). These cookies store information about your visit to the site, whether you came directly by typing in the URL or were linked from another site, what you do while on the site, how long you were there, what stories you click on, which ads caught your attention, and many other things. Sites remember you when you come back too, which is why some sites don’t require you to log in with your userid and password each time.  You can always turn that off via your browser settings, but many sites won’t work correctly – some may even prevent access – if cookies are not enabled. While most terms of service don’t specifically mention cookies, they speak generally about what they collect and how that information is used and shared.

Google, for instance, collects quite a bit of data on you.  Their current agreement stipulates in part, “We collect information about the services that you use and how you use them, like when you watch a video on YouTube, visit a website that uses our advertising services, or view and interact with our ads and content.”  That’s very clear. They even note when you ‘like’ something.

Further down it also states, ” When you use Google services, we may collect and process information about your actual location. We use various technologies to determine location, including IP address, GPS, and other sensors that may, for example, provide Google with information on nearby devices, Wi-Fi access points and cell towers.”

I’m not here to pick on Google. But it goes on to talk about the ways in which they use your info. You can read it on your own if you’re interested:  Google Privacy Statement. The language is very similar to what most sites state in their user agreements.

So, as an FYI, the next time you sign up for an online site or service, take a moment to read the agreement. Most are fairly standard, but you might find some things therein surprising.


About Will S.

A nouveau Taurus, writing about my view of the world around me. From politics, to social problems, to public corruption, music and movies to pretty much anything I feel inspired to write. We all need meaningful activities and hobbies to add value to our lives and take our minds away from the stress of the real world. Blogging does that for me.
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