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June 28, 2012

Daily Data Snatching: Advertising Based on Private Information

There are groups of people living in British Columbia who claim to be “off-gridders,” yet their lives are published on a website. So they’re not really off the grid, are they?

“I was hard pressed to find a TV, but I met only one family who didn’t have the Internet,” a sociology professor researching these people stated.

The story of the infamous boy named Ray who claimed to have lived in a German forest, and therefore off the grid, later proved to be a sham. Ray was traced to parents searching for him via Twitter (News - Alert) (News - Alert), and it was later revealed that he was enrolled in a telecom college before he made his public claim.

The fact that this polarized lifestyle is seemingly impossible indicates that there is a lot of information available about people living average lifestyles. Perhaps the extreme alarm voiced by privacy advocates over the exposure of private information online, has some merit.

And if these concerns have merit, it’s quite disturbing how advertisers, scam artists and even government officials are prolifically snatching data on a daily basis.

Facebook (News - Alert) (News - Alert) has been criticized in the past for not maximizing on their potential to generate revenue from advertising. Their solution? Real-time ad targeting. By enabling HTML cookies into user browsers, bidders can buy and sell data to advertisers who can then display relative ads in real time.

This advertising method is used by virtually every other Web company, especially Google (News - Alert) (News - Alert).

What makes this a seemingly hypocritical move on Facebook’s part is the company’s promotion of privacy tools, such as Privacy Score, an app that allows users to rate the security levels of other apps based on cookies and other browser reading technology.

Facebook has also presented the public with an image of privacy concerns by publicizing updates in their policies. However, U.S. courts have also considered Facebook as a source of public information, whether you “like” it or not.

Political campaigns use similar techniques as commercial advertisers. Despite the fact that some experts consider online political advertising to be in a stage of “infancy,” spokesmen from the Obama campaign have stated that “digital is no longer a part of the campaign. It is the campaign.” Even Mitt Romney launched an app for the iPhone (News - Alert) (News - Alert).

Certain websites such as “Will of the People” may charge fees for users who want a more luxurious empowerment package, but all of the data acquired from its users is very valuable to politicians and political entities, so the site is sure to generate revenue from this market. It would be naïve to think otherwise.

Hackers and identity thieves have made the security industry an industry that struggles to evolve at the same rate as cybercrime. Recent reports, however, indicate that there are ways to commit fraud even in circumstances where the security systems are the best money can buy. A group of hackers with an impressive set of IT skills and inside knowledge of bank transaction procedures managed to pull off the greatest bank robbery in the history of the world.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. ITEXPO (News - Alert) (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. For more information on registering for ITEXPO click here.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman
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