That’s not including what the NSA is tracking about me. It’s just the count of the number of times Facebook has “called home” to various tracking services in the few minutes I spent this morning over coffee seeing what my friends have been up to.
The image in this article shows the Disconnect browser plug-in visualization of what sites are informed when I visit Facebook and which ones have been blocked. It is amazing how many times Facebook attempts to send back data when I look at photos or “like” things to sites like:
- Skimresources.com (Don’t like the sound of that one)
- Newrelic.com (I’m not that old yet)
- Krxd.net (Sounds like a new type of bath salts)
- Ooyala.com (Was the “oohlala.com” domain taken?)
Of course, my data is being shared with those sites to enable Facebook to create advertising revenue. But exactly what data? And what are those companies–many of them open-plan startups with who-knows-what security–doing with the data they are receiving?
I also took a look at my Ghostery settings and noticed that they currently enable blocking of:
- 963 advertising trackers
- 306 analytics trackers
- 376 beacons
- 16 privacy trackers
- 273 widgets
Unfortunately, I was allowing hundreds in many of those categories, as my Ghostery settings weren’t up to date. Now, many of those those trackers don’t matter. I found that Gazprom (Russia) has an advertising tracker. Who knew? But unless I’m visiting Russian sites, the impact on my privacy is zero.
Why all these trackers? Simple. I’m (and you are) a valuable product that Internet publishers can sell to advertisers. In many cases, I’m OK with that. I’m a marketer and love to be sold to. I love great advertising. And in certain categories, I’m a dream customer.
I’m just not interested in my information being sent all over the place.
What can you do about it?
Not much. As the saying goes, if you’re not paying, you’re the product. What you can do is install some tools and see who’s tracking you and then you can decide if you want to be tracked (at the risk of disabling website functionality) or where you want your information sent. Try:
Install them in your browser and take a few minutes to see where your information is going and then adjust the settings to make you more comfortable. Will any of these tools give you perfect privacy? Of course not. But you’ll be a little less of a product.