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ACM Opinion

Don't Track Me, Bro


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Sam Bloomberg-Rissman / Spaces Images-Corbis

Here is how Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, describes the current state of affairs on the Internet: "Say I’m walking through a mall. And there’s a guy following me. He doesn't know my name, but he knows where I live, and he knows I'm carrying an American Express card, because I used it in the last store I visited, and he knows I'm looking for a madras jacket with yellow and red in it, and he's sending signals about me to the stores in front of me. If he's following me, that’s troubling. If he's following my daughter, I want to punch him out. That's what’s going on on the Internet. People are being tracked. And consumers have no idea this is happening."

That is why the FTC has proposed a "do not track" option, which would give Web surfers the ability to block so-called tracking cookies. These are little bits of software code that advertisers embed into your computer to keep track of which websites you visit.

For the most part, cookies aren’t dangerous. They were created so advertisers could get a better idea of who you are and what you’re interested in, so they could send you ads you’re more likely to find relevant. Guys get ads for Just for Men beard and mustache gel; women get ads for Clinique, or Crabtree & Evelyn. Still, the technology is a bit creepy, mostly because cookies are planted on your computer without your knowledge.

From Newsweek
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