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Privacy Versus Profiling Essay

1742 words - 7 pages

If a stranger would approach someone on the street, would one casually offer personal information to him? Would one allow him to follow and record one’s activities? Although it may be obvious in the concrete world that one would not allow it, the behavior of the general population on the Internet is strikingly different. While surfing websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google, many people provide personal details to enhance their online profile? These websites retain vast amounts of personal information from their users. Although this practice benefits the user as well, unrestricted profiling can become an alarming catastrophe. Unless the threat to internet users privacy are shown to exceed the benefits, we should not regulate the internet, rather we should educate the public how to be more responsible about their identities.
Various web-based companies have developed techniques to document their customer’s data, enabling them to provide a more enhanced web experience. One such method called “cookies,” employs Microsoft’s web browser, Internet Explorer. It traces the user’s habits. Cookies are pieces of text stored by the web browser that are sent back and forth every time the user accesses a web page. These can be tracked to follow web surfers’ actions. Cookies are used to store the user’s passwords making your life easier on banking sites and email accounts. Another technique used by popular search engines is to personalize the search results. Search engines such as Google sell the top search results to advertisers and are only paid when the search results are clicked on by users. Therefore, Google tries to produce the most relevant search results for their users with a feature called web history. Web history helps deliver more personalized search results based on the things one has searched for before on Google and the sites one has visited. Essentially, Google builds a detailed profile of the user based on his or her surfing habits. (Does it really matter that it’s stored on their servers?) Facebook , the social network champion, employs this technique at a new level. Facebook released a concept called “Open Graph” which allows one to log onto Facebook and access many other sites using one’s Facebook account. Facebook encourages its users to recommend articles, photos, and movies, essentially everything. When one recommends something one’s friends will get an update that one liked it. This amounts to a great quantity of private information that Facebook knows about its users. This allows Facebook to advertise on a personal level. If one is looking to buy a car the database will scan what one’s circle of friends are interested in rather than just what is popular. Dan Fletcher reports for Time magazine that:
The more updates Facebook gets you to share and the more preferences it entreats you to make public, the more data it's able to pool for advertisers. Google spearheaded targeted advertisements, but it knows what...

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