Data collection through the internet

Internet data is considered nowadays to be not private.

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Internet data is considered nowadays to be not private.

Colt Beat, Memorial Co-Editor-in-Chief

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Since an estimated 57.3% of the population has access to the internet, it is apparent that this innovation is successfully and conveniently serving individuals’ desires.

Whether it be shopping, gaming, accessing social media or simply looking up information on a virtually endless encyclopedia, all utilizations of the internet are tracked by their Internet Service Provider (ISP) like AT&T, mostly to filter out potentially criminal activity.

While internet activity is justifiably managed by ISPs, the notion of data collection from websites, search history and social media platforms is considered invasive by as many as 88% of Americans, according to Pew Research public polls.

One way that websites track activity is through the usage of third-party cookies, which are created by individuals not in relation to the website’s enterprise. Also called tracking cookies, one of its main purposes is to use users’ internet history to generate relevant advertisements that appear on other websites or social media platforms that one is visiting. 

For example, if an individual views clothing items on a retail store’s website, then a third-party monitor will gather and analyze products that were viewed to create relevant product advertisements on other websites one may visit.

Third-party cookies can easily be managed by toggling private searching mode, manually disabling access in browser settings or installing an ad blocker.

Although the implementation of third party cookies has long been a part of the online advertising market, the means of which data is collected, oftentimes without a user’s consent, is considered by many as unfair.

With an increase of knowledge about third-party cookies and the privacy issues that ensue, the solution to this issue for third-party trackers in the future are about communicating to the user. In other words, this would entail asking for consent of data collection rather than just gathering user data, which comes off as a careless and devious ploy on the third-party tracker. This would be a step in the right direction.

Another form of data collection disguises itself as “personalizing” the experience for the user. Search engines, social media and streaming applications use data collection. 

The best solution to ensure that data will not be collected and used is to avoid engaging in social media or streaming at all.

Social media platforms and streaming services have terms and conditions that one agrees to in order to set up an account. However, many users look over these lengthy agreements to access their favorite features. As a result, there is no wrongdoing legally since consent was technically given. 

If these terms were more explicit about the usage of data collection, it would settle some discomfort. Instagram now displays what information they collect and how it is used and shared, in addition to detailing the option to manage the collected data. 

There are many methods to be somewhat incognito in terms of user tracking: delete browser history after every use, use only notable search engines, install applications like Tor, read and understand user agreements, be aware of privacy settings, avoid engagement with cryptocurrency and keep a separate device for usage of the internet only.

As of right now, it is virtually impossible to be completely anonymous on the internet, with some program, application, network, etc. monitoring online activity. That said, there are proactive measures one can take to protect their data from advertising companies and avaricious corporations.

 

Contact Colt Beat at [email protected]