EU investigates consumer profiling

Tue 31 March 2009 09:44, Bas van den Beld

EU investigates consumer profiling

Google just recently announced they were giving the user more power over their privacy. They say they are completely transparant. Most probably the EU won't agree with them. EU officials have been in a battle with the search engines for the last couple of years, trying to improve the privacy of the visitors.

The Financial Times on Monday announced another step in the battle of the EU against privacy-issues. The European authorities are planning an investigation on consumer profiling by online advertisers. The investigations follows complaints by senior EU officials who believe "basic rights in terms of transparancy, control and risk are being violated.

The investigation will focus on the 'deep-packet inspection' technologies. With these technologies both broadband providers to track online activities. The expectation is that broadband providers will start using this data for targeted advertising in the future.

EU says that most people don't know what personal data is being collected and stored online. Therefore measures have to be taken says EU official Meglena Kuneva: "If we fail to see an adequate response to comsumers' concerns on the issue of data collection and profiling, we will not shy away from our duties."

So far it is not said that search engines will be part of the investigation but chances are that any outcome will have a big effect on the way search engines store data. Therefore Google, Microsoft and Yahoo will be looking with interest to the outcomes of the investigation.

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  • Tracking visitors across the web is ridiculously easy if sites use the same tracking software like Google Analytics, Sitemeter, Statcounter or any of the other popular meters. Each company that owns the site meter immediately has the IP address of the visitors to ANY of the sites using that same tracking software. Privacy aside, they have to keep records, and when you sign into your Google Mail, Google has your IP again - and matches it to all the sites you've visited that use Google Analytics, or that you have ever have visited even before you got a Gmail account. Dynamic IP addresses are a bit harder to deal with, but your ISP has that information in THEIR records, so anyone taking the two records can put them together to know exactly who went exactly where. Top that off with the fact that most people who sign up with an ISP don't simply accept the DNS servers assigned by their ISP accounts (and don't opt to use Open DNS as an alternative) the ISP ALSO knows exactly what sites you've been on. So if you search for and visit a half dozen shopping and information sites at 11:30 a.m. and your teenage son then "accidentally" visits half a dozen raunchy porn sites after 11:30 p.m. when you're sleeping - they have it. If you use an unencrypted wireless router and let five of your neighbors onto your network to gain internet access for free, you are showing just one MAC address hard-coded into your Router's Network Interface Card (NIC). You may think this may somewhat confuse anyone tracking sites you visit because theirs are mixed in with yours, and that individual computers are not identifiable - but with Javascript tracking enabled the OS version is revealed: Mac, Linux, Windows XP, Win 2K Pro, Vista - and the various different versions and type of browser (Firefox, IE, Safari, Opera etc) - all show up. So does your screen resolution. An unencrypted wireless network also allows the local pervert in a parked utility truck to camp outside your home and surf using your ISP connection - and YOU may get a knock on your door for what the parked pervert did. Google is already as powerful as the NSA, some say, and I tend to agree. I regard nothing that I do on the Web as private, considering how many parties are already privileged to (practically) everything I do and every site I visit. To my way of thinking, the horse has long ago been let out of the privacy barn. Google is just the biggest, most obvious offender to target, but we each have other big-brothers recording and analyzing everything we do.

    Di 31 mrt 2009, 22:49


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