Should We Block Big Brother Tactics by Companies?


Gmail reads my emails.

… so they can serve me targeted ads.

Amazon analyzes my book buying habits.

…to serve me up ads via recommendations.

Facebook studies my posting habits and likes.

…to sell my profile to advertisers so they can target me with ads.

Google collects and analyzes my search habits.

…to serve me up contextual ads.

The New York Times tracks all the stories I read.

…so they can recommend to me other stories to read.

Nearly every website I visit mines me for valuable data.

…so they can sell it so companies can serve me up ads.

Some days you feel like a dairy cow and you’re tired of being milked.  It gets aggravating to poked, prodded, pushed, pulled, and plucked day-in-and-day out.  Some days you’ve had enough.

This is one of those days.

Our personal data (i.e. our privacy) has become the new frontier of marketing.  Our preferences, buying habits, online patterns and circle of friends and influencers is the new gold mine.  And we gladly give it up for convenience.

So here’s a question:

Should companies be allowed to collect your personal data when you visit their websites?  Or should they be required to specifically ask permission to mine this data?

And I’m not talking about asking permission in the form of pages long terms of service agreements that no one reads.  I’m talking about a pop-up that open as soon you arrive allowing you to either opt in or opt out of having your personal data collected.

And one follow-up question.

Should companies be forced to be completely transparent about what data they do have and have to share it with you if you ask for it?



Why You Hate Privacy

Invasion of the Privacy Snatchers

8 Responses to “Should We Block Big Brother Tactics by Companies?”

  1. prosewithabbitude April 4, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    I think companies should be required to ask permission, but I doubt they ever will as it would probably decrease their profits from advertising that internet gurus most likely live off of. I also wonder the direct sales relation as a result of somewhat untargeted ads. I can’t say internet ads have ever prompted me to purchase a service or product. For example, yesterday I googled a product sold by Sephora only because it was relevant to a blog post I was writing. Next thing I know I had countless ads popping up on Google and Facebook from Sephora. I’ve stepped into the store once in my life and have never purchased an item from their store, nor do I ever plan to.

  2. Hi Pro:
    Companies won’t ask if they aren’t required, too. It would take a change in federal laws in the U.S. Most of us don’t think that advertising works on us, but we’re all sadly mistaken. It works very well, especially ads that are targeted to our preferences and shopping habits.

  3. prosewithabbitude April 4, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    True. I guess the next question it prompts is how would those companies continue to make money. No doubt the advertising has an effective impact. I suppose I am just less aware of it because I don’t do much online shopping.

  4. They would make money by selling products, services and advertisements. The same thing brick and mortar stores, newspapers and magazines and other business did long before the internet. Just because you can track, catalog and take information off of people’s computers doesn’t mean we have to allow them to do so.

  5. gfsnell,

    I’ve been on and offline since the late 80’s. As the years have gone by and I’ve sat in business conference after conference, I’ve seen the big brother pattern also. When I try to explain to people what’s going on, most are clueless. The whole “what’s your facebook page?” “you’re NOT on Facebook, OMG!” etc. actually makes me laugh sometimes. I really want to say “you mean you’re really allowing people to track your every move?!” or something to let them know how serious the problem really is. Most just shrug it off like cows chewing cud and lining up for the slaughter. It’s amazing to me. The younger generation actually has some idea they are being tracked but it’s something they find interesting and really don’t get it. One of the kids said to me “Hey, Mrs. R, you were right, I can get on facebook and find out where people are by clicking on the name, it will take me right to where the person is at!”
    “Really?! and that’s okay with the person?”
    GPS capabilities are great when used without intervention by someone wanting to spy, be creepy, or stalk someone else. When I explained to the youth the situation from a different perspective, she just starred at me. lol More people need to be aware of what’s going on and more adults need to turn off the gps on their kids phones.

    Pretty creepy in my opinion.

    … of many not my own
    Evansville, IN City Wide Leukemia Awareness Party!

  6. Should We Block Big Brother Tactics by Companies?

    Yes. Period. Full Stop.

    Tracking and collection of information without express and explicit consent is like being brought into a

    room of pickpockets hired expressly to steal from you while the visible website is winking and nodding at


    That websites stoop to these tactics in an attempt to justify the failure of their ‘business model’ is a

    breach of trust of monumental proportions.

    The Numbers Game

    Advertiser Supported Media (ASM) has been with us since Poor Richards Almanac with various degrees of

    success. Dead Tree publications used circulation and subscription numbers to promote their publications in

    reaching for advertiser money. These at best were fuzzy numbers despite companies auditing these numbers.

    An example is the waiting rooms across the land. Did these magazines lead to subscriptions? Did the adverts

    increase sales? Fuzzy Numbers.

    This was however how periodicals supported themselves. The popularity of the subject/content driving

    circulation provided income to continue publication.

    ASM is also how newspapers survived/flourished with additional revenue from announcements, classifieds, and

    ad inserts. The only limits to growth were exposure and distribution and fuzzy circulation numbers.

    Every one of these media properties had an in house department to manage and sell advertising. Hold that


    With the arrival of the internet, three significant things happened. The cost of publication plummeted, as

    pixels and especially color pixels cost the same as monochrome, Distribution became a global 24/7 access

    presentation, its significant drop in distribution costs, and for the first time, real verifiable

    circulation numbers were available.

    Every website on the web is hosted somewhere, and as part of hosting, a server log file is created in real

    time. Every page request, every completed request, every image request and delivery (images being the

    largest format for advertisements) is logged.Where the request came from, IP Address, length of time on the

    page, links clicked, and browser type, whether computer, tablet, smart phone, and even operating system.
    All of this information is available to every website owner, and contains true and accurate circulation


    All of this without using a single cookie, webbug, iframe, or third party.”partner”. Even your site has a

    log file and because it is a WordPress site you have additional log files specific to WordPress.

    On the dark side, you have a number of bugs happening here The Twitter button(2 trackers), the Facebook

    Social Graph(1), the LinkedIn button(1). These three trackers alleged to be nothing more than connections

    to other Social Media Sites are tracking your visitors and leading to…More ASM sites. Even if visitors do

    not have accounts or participation on these sites, statistics and accounts are being created for tracking.

    All three of these sites which started as community circles have morphed into AD Sites every bit as

    intrusive as the large Media sites. Perhaps the most disheartening is the use of Quantcast which has 5

    trackers embedded on your site.

    This is a bit disingenuous if you are have a conversation about tracking.

    By your own posting, disclosure and notification should be taking place here. I can understand

    Twitter,LinkedIn, and even Facebook, but Quantcast? If your employer is paying for this site, I may

    understand, but if this is your out of pocket expression then you are deep in it:)

    Perhaps in a future posting you can reveal what information that Quantcast is getting, and how it is

    helping either you or your company depending on who is writing the check.

    moving on…..

    “Should companies be allowed to collect your personal data when you visit their websites? ”

    Outside of what is in the logfiles, NO. Period. Full Stop.
    If companies are running ASM sites, and are not handling their advertising in house, this points to a

    failure of their own making.

    Advertising has always been a spray and pray activity. The things that the internet brings to the table are

    reach and accurate numbers. Log files provide Verifiable Exposure/Circulation Numbers. Depending on the ad

    model either CPC Cost per thousand Impressions or CPA Cost Per Action payment models which is an in house


    Third Party Ad Servers and data miners should not be used under any circumstances. Use of Third Parties

    points to a failure of companies own management to create revenue sufficient to their needs and also

    creates a breach of trust with visitors.Which is why the Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook buttons are so

    disingenuous,These are not an affirmation of popularity but are leading folks to the feedlots for

    fattening and eventual slaughter.

    “Or should they be required to specifically ask permission to mine this data?
    See above.

    If you chose to interact by posting, joining, of signing up for newsletters or email, you are voting with

    your mouse. And You are responsible for the like kind and quantity of information.

    “Should companies be forced to be completely transparent about what data they do have and have to share it

    with you if you ask for it?”

    Maybe in a perfect world.
    They have absolutely no compelling reason to disclose anything either legally or ethically, although

    ethics and data mining should not be used in the same sentence.

    It might time to reboot the internet, but maybe we should tweet it first;)

  7. George,

    Allow me to make a mea culpa and an apology for the pot- kettle-black remarks regarding the appearance of Quantcast trackers on your site.
    It bugged me because you have always been upfront and honest about what you do. We may disagree, but I have never found you to be less than forthright.

    It seems that WordPress Stats is the culprit. Buried in the source code written in Javascript is the callout for Quantcast tracking. So you are not alone, in being infected by trackers that you did not sign up for. Neither did I on the two wordpress blogs I have, nor does anybody else.

    This link provides an explanation: Stats Quietly Includes Quantcast
    This is not limited to hosted blogs, but includes every wordpress installation anywhere.

    This is a link to a wordpress support forum that talks about it as well.

    [Note that this thread is two years old.]

    This is wrong on so many levels.

    Matt Mullenweg one of the creators of word press reply was:
    “We’re going to use this to provide some cool features around uniques and people counting.”

    Still it would be nice to gather this information by requiring WordPress and Quantcast to explain and uncover this data.

    Again, my apologies for thinking that you had gone to the dark side.

  8. Thanks, Flopoke. Appreciate the kind words.

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