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Opting Out

OPB | April 25, 2011 9:20 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 10:01 p.m.

In the emerging online market for your personal information are we forced to participate or can we opt-out?

Currently there are a few bills being considered in Congress aimed at protecting users’ information. Two of the practices the proposed laws seek to enforce are unwanted web tracking and scraping.

Web tracking is simply following a user’s behavior on a website. This feature allows an online store to recommend products that are similar to the ones you have purchased — or even looked at —in the past. But web tracking can also analyze someone’s movement beyond a single website, following your footprint all over the internet.

Web scraping is a tool used by online data brokers who “scrape” the internet for personal records and information. Theoretically, a user can go to these sites, enter a name and find information on an individual: anything from a phone numbers to personal income. It’s theoretical because the information is not always accurate. The sites are also controversial because not everyone believes all their personal information should be public.

Although some find this alarming, the overall majority of internet users do not use the current applications aimed at protecting their web presence and information. Would you opt-out if you could? Do you mind targeted advertisements? When is information too personal to share?

 

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