Governments and their agencies allow access to fundamental information, ‘Big Data’ which, for their purposes, points toward threats and other terrorisations upon their civilians and administration. For this reason, tracking of internet usage is necessary. The intent is for our safety and wellbeing. But who are the real beneficiaries?
Well, marketers, for the most part. Within the current epoch, the true currency is hits. If you’ve ever wondered how websites like Facebook can even turn a profit, it’s from the advertising they enable on their sites. Such advertising is targeted by way of Cookies. Cookies are a form of digital code stored by your browser which allow websites to track some of your activity. Such a prospect is remise of ‘Big Brother’, however, consider the position of Evan Reiser, CEO of AdStack, who believes that if you can “make advertising more relevant, it becomes less like spam and more like content.” Reiser raises an interesting point. While internet tracking is our reality, perhaps it isn’t so bleak. AdStack allows businesses to send emails, the content of which they may change until users open them, in order to cater content. As writer Adam Tanner explains, “if you open a restaurant promotion in the morning it might advertise a lunch special, or later in the day, dinner.”
So if you can put aside the invasion of privacy, it’s indeed quite helpful. All the same, do we really have the right to be vexed by this invasion of privacy and our right to confidentiality when we’re blasé about our privacy in other situations? American comedian, Jack Vale, played an insightful prank on unsuspecting café goers to illustrate just how much of our information strangers can access.
The disturbed, even aggressive responses of some of the targets demonstrates the level of discomfort people have with personal data access, despite Vale only accessing publicly available information. So what right do we have to be angered by internet tracking when we provide so many permissions to, and direct provisions of personal information, to websites and applications; the result being an “increasing volume and detail of information captured by enterprises… fuel[ing] exponential growth in data for the foreseeable future” (Manyika, J., Chui, M., Brown, B., Bughin, J., Dobbs, R., Roxburgh, C., Byers, A. H. 2011).
Well, every right, one may argue. With the prevalence of the Cookie’s sibling, the Web Bug, it is becoming increasingly easy for advertisers and trackers to discretely access our information. The Web Bug is imbedded in pages and registers who, when and where from a person accesses a webpage. Each time you access the internet, the data collected adds to the increasing digital profile you inadvertently create. This, coupled with the extensive profile collated through everything from “digital CCTV [to] the recording of retail purchases” (J. L. Kasunic, lecture, 15 August) is leading to an unprecedented lack of privacy, and a call to action to combat this. An example of how this may be done is through the introduction of a private property right on the big data that exists pertaining to each individual (Fraser, M. 2014).
People have the right to autonomy and control over the access to information about them. Governments must uphold their responsibility to protect their people – the basis of internet tracking – and legislate the restriction of access by corporations to each individual’s share of Big Data.
Kasunic, J. L. 2014, ‘Data, data, everywhere: Week 3 Interdisciplinary Design Lab A’ UTS Subject 85202, lecture slides, UTS, Sydney
Manyika, J., Chui, M., Brown, B., Bughin, J., Dobbs, R., Roxburgh, C., Byers, A. H. 2011, ‘Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity’, McKinsey Global Institute Report 2011, MKinsey Global Institute,
Reiser, E. 2013, ‘The Web Cookie is Dying. Here’s The Creepier Technology That Comes Next’, Forbes, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamtanner/2013/06/17/the-web-cookie-is-dying-heres-the-creepier-technology-that-comes-next/>
Rouse, M. 2014, ‘Web bug (Web beacon), SearchSOA, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://searchsoa.techtarget.com/definition/Web-bug/>
Tanner, A. 2013, ‘The Web Cookie is Dying. Here’s The Creepier Technology That Comes Next’, Forbes, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamtanner/2013/06/17/the-web-cookie-is-dying-heres-the-creepier-technology-that-comes-next/>
Vale, J. 2013, Social Media Experiment, video recording YouTube, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P_0s1TYpJU&list=UUsDl6A77CrbkSJLtxQFVDGw>