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Creepy Business – How Companies Track You

I heard someone say, “Let ’em track me. I don’t care. I got nothing to hide.”

But it’s not really about what you have to hide. It’s about protecting your privacy.

Yes, some people want to illegally download things. And some people want to lurk in forums or on social media and treat people poorly without revealing their identity. That’s their big push for online privacy. They’re really just looking for anonymity. That’s another kind of creepy business, and not what I’m talking about here.

But the big online companies are engaged in some creepy business. They track everything you do on their site. Then they follow you around the internet and track many of the other things you do on other sites.

So what? You have nothing to hide.

But if you knew how much data they were collecting, you might have a different opinion.

Let’s compare this to an in-person situation.

You go to a department store because you need hamburger, underwear and light bulbs. As soon as you enter the store, a man in a navy blue suit starts following you. (Why a navy blue suit? No idea. Maybe because suits are creepy.) He pulls out a tablet and records the brand of burger you select. He takes more notes as you set it down and pick up a different one, then records which one you put in your cart.

He follows you to the clothing section and takes more notes as you peruse the different underwear options. He looks at your body shape and compares it to the items you pick up. He compares each item to what you bought last time. He records your selection.

You move on to the next section and he takes notes on the route you take to get there. He records your sigh of frustration as you are confronted with a ridiculously huge array light bulbs. Which one to pick? As you peruse the selection for any hint of why one might be better than the other, the man takes note of each package you look at and which one you finally select.

He follows you to the checkout and records all of your purchases.

Finally, you leave the store.

He follows you.

You drive to the big box home improvement store. He follows you there. He follows you through the store and records everything you put in your cart and everything you purchase at the register.

He follows you out.

Your next stop is a specialty antique store. Mom and pop shop that only accepts cash. The man waits outside until you’re finished.

Then he follows you as you go to the coffee shop to meet a friend. He records your purchases and takes copious notes of your conversation with your friend. He follows you out when you leave.

You go home, unload your purchases and go inside.

He follows. He records what you put in the fridge and compares it against what you bought.

After everything is put away, you turn on the TV. He records everything you watch.

Creepy, right?

In the real world, we have a word for this kind of activity: stalking. And it’s a crime.

Just stop for a moment and think about the situation I described. At what point would you have called the police?

Now consider the fact that online companies do this to you all the time and there’s no punishment for it. It’s wrong and it should be stopped.

So who’s doing this kind of creepy business?

All the big names you know. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Walmart, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Google … just to name a few.


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