Internet Tracking (Again): What’s the Big Deal?

When we last wrote about Internet Tracking about 5 weeks ago, we figured it would be our last word on the subject. Legislation was being passed to require online data-farmers to provide clear “opt-out” options, consumer awareness was growing, and things seemed to be improving.

Since then, absolutely nothing has changed. Actually, that isn’t really true, they have gotten worse.

News sites continue to write sensationalist stories suggesting that internet marketers are waiting like ravenous dogs for every scrap of information you leave online. Buzz words like “Threat,” “Invasive,” and “No Privacy,” crop up over and over again. People are desperate to find any way they can to surf the internet anonymously, leaving behind no trace of their habits. We think it is time to be a little more realistic.

1. What is Internet Tracking Really Doing to Harm You?

When you click onto a site – any site – you leave behind a cookie, which is simply a piece of data equivalent to scratching your name on the wall of a building. Companies that make money off of data like this are only interested in one thing: what do you click on, and why? Trackers want to follow you from one site to the next, trying to find a pattern in your browsing. That information helps them build and sell models for better online advertising; essentially they want to find a way to make their clients’ products more interesting to you.

In general, people using cookies aren’t hunting for your specific home address, phone number or daughter’s Facebook profile. They just want to know where you are shopping, and what got you there. Have you ever taken a survey where you told a store or website how you found out about them? It’s quite literally the exact same information. True, these companies are not asking for your permission, so you could argue that this is an invasion of privacy, but surely there is some exaggeration going on. If a marketer were sitting outside of a public mall, making note of which stores people went into, would you file a lawsuit against them?

2. By Going Online, You May Soon Waive the Freedom to Privacy.

On July 28th, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation requiring all Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) to track and store data of every single thing you do online for at least one year. Any word you type, link you click, image or video that passes over your monitor will be tracked, saved, and analyzed by your ISP. Honestly, the vote wasn’t even close, with 19 out of 29 representatives in favor of the bill. In truth though, even without this bill, ISP’s still monitor data usage and addresses frequently visited by users.

Internet trackers and internet users are both trying to accomplish the same thing. Trackers want to make advertising that is less irritation and more inviting, and users want to easily find things they are interested in and want to buy. We can’t see a loser anywhere in this equation.

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Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.

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