PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — If you’re one of the millions of Americans who like to shop online or even just do a bit of research, there’s a good chance somebody is tracking you.
“Everything you do can be tracked, and a lot of people don’t realize that and don’t realize the kind of dossiers that are being built about them when they go online,” says Carnegie Mellon University Professor Lorrie Cranor.
Cranor, an expert on computer privacy, told KDKA Money Editor Jon Delano that most websites try to keep track of people who click on them.
“Many of these advertising and tracking companies are also keeping track of not only what you buy but also what you looked at and didn’t buy,” she said.
Even if it’s your local newspaper, what you look at is being recorded for their own marketing purposes.
“It says there are eight trackers here and some of these appear to be for advertising,” notes Cranor, as she looked at one newspaper website.
All this tracking has prompted the Federal Trade Commission to issue a report, saying it’s time those who go online have a “Do Not Track” option, like the “Do Not Call” telephone protection.
“The FTC is proposing that you should be able to set up in your browser with just one button a global sort of opt out that says, ‘Don’t track me on any website,’” says Cranor.
There’s another way, says the professor. If you want to know who is tracking you, download a free service like Ghostery.
“I think it’s a good way to know when you’re being tracked and to block the trackers if you want to,” she said.
But nothing beats a national “Do Not Track” regulation.
“Without some sort of regulation and enforcement behind it, it’s unlikely to be effective.”
If you feel strongly about this ‘Do Not Track’ issue, the Federal Trade Commission is taking your comments until January 31st. You can link to the FTC online and, by the way, the FTC does not track you.