Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sites such as Facebook and targeted ads are overstepping our privacy boundaries

I'm not totally opposed to targeted advertising. I believe this is the way we can get to the things we are searching for, not to mention this is how get to use search engines for free as well. Yet, during a recent online search the targeted advertisements went a bit further...showing up on other websites I was visiting. This prompted me to think "how far can this targeted advertizing, or the internet for that matter, go."

First, we must consider what we define as private...just as we did last week with the former post assignment. As a privacy issue I don't think it is an invasion because this is how they work, and we must accept these terms when we decide to use these sites, which happen to be free. The ads just show up on our Facebook or Google page, for example. If they were to somehow get to my email and I'm receiving such ads...then, I would totatlly consider it an invasion of privacy. This is
the official status quo.

Yet, we really don't know how far these targeted ads get, or if there are other ways that our online history and information is being accessed by these companies (or some John Doe).
As I stated above, I was searching for a knee brace online and found a great site that seemed to have the perfect match for me. Since I'm a very conscious buyer, I left it at that and thought I'd make a decision later when I have looked at more sites. On two different websites, the same knee brace I had looked at showed up through targeted ads. I thought "what a coincidence" (since I'm used to the ads on websites-that's how many of these authors make a buck) but I quickly regained mental clarity and thoughtthis is going a bit further! Why would it show up at a
different website unrelated to the knee brace search?!

This is the point that got me far can they go? I enter my name and a lot of private information on different sites, yet I'm not sure how far these targeted ads go, so now I'm thinking how can they easily get to this type of information. Moreover, I am becoming more conscious of "who else" is able to trace my history in the same way and for what purpose. For instance, Facebook is always asking me to link my page to my email so they can "retrieve my contacts." Now, I consider that a privacy invasion. I don't want FB in my email...I really don't know how far they can get beyond my email.

In brief, as a privacy issue targeted ads had been staying within their limits but I see this trend changing with more and more eyes on my online history. This is concerning given that there could be a host of other people doing the same...we don't know for what purpose. Moreover, online networking sites are becoming more intrusive of our information, and I feel that my privacy can be threatened if this trend progresses.

P.S. Here's a link to someone's comment about FB's invasion of
privacy with its new design.


  1. Interesting post, and of course, part of the issue that you refer to here - that targeted advertising is simply part of the current status quo - may be at the crux of the problem. How many users are aware that they intrinsically accept the terms of targeted advertising when they use certain sites? To what extent do corporations need to be transparent about their data mining practices? Is this really an acceptable status quo? Lots of crucial questions needing clearer answers in online policy.

  2. Good point! To what extent to we accept these terms of the status quo?! Online users have come to believe that the internet is a free for all system in which you have to accept what's there because it's just is.

    For starters a visible Terms of Conditions link would be helpful when using Google and even well as other search engines.

    Another issue that could arise from this would be that information may be less accessible. Most websites where we find "free" information are basically advertising systems. They get paid if you click...thus, they keep bringing you "free" information.