Take my data; just don’t bother me with it

Today I got to read a brief history of cookies and clicks for a communications class I’m in. We read a chapter of Joseph Turow’s book “The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry Is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth.” Here are the five things I’ve spent the day thinking about since I read the chapter:

1. The class discussion revolved around cookies and privacy — mirroring many of the discussions we’ve had in our class. Most people said they don’t like that companies harvest data without active consent from web users, but many of my classmates also said they don’t want to make the effort to stop those companies from doing so.

2. I’ll be honest. The few times I’ve made the effort to go disable cookies on my different web browsers, they’ve threatened to unremember all of the different passwords I’ve saved. That was enough to scare me back into my cookie-filled browsers.

3. The discussion raised some interesting points in my mind. Particularly, the word consent. North Carolina has the one-party consent law, which makes it a crime to intercept or record any “wire, oral, or electronic communication” unless one party in the conversation consents. While I understand that we technically give consent when we sign user agreements, is it really consent if you can’t use most of the Internet without giving away that privacy? Especially now that the president declared the Internet is a public good.

4. Tonight, I tried, rather unsuccessfully to register for an account on aboutthedata.com. It’s run by a company called Acxiom, a marketing data company that collects and sells internet users’ data to advertising companies. Apparently, they have a different address listed for me, so they won’t release the data they’ve collected on me to me.

5. I’m still not sure companies have perfected the algorithm they use to track my searches. If I spend an hour looking at boots on Google, Amazon, and other online shopping sites and still don’t buy anything, I’m not sure I need to be advertised at for the next few weeks. I’d rather them take the Harris Teeter VIC card approach — if I’m buying lots of cookies, I would probably use a coupon for some milk.

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