Our digital privacy, if we may call it, is getting a lot of attention, reviews, argument, etc… Many users are freaking out fearing for their personal and private information not to be exposed to the public or used by unauthorized people; some start doing things about it (not sure how much effective after getting too deep into the digital life) and some either don’t care about it or they don’t know what does it mean or what are its effects.

Is It Real?

A big question to ask, and I believe there is no correct answer to it. Privacy as defined by the Oxford dictionary is “a state in which one is not observed or disturbed by other people” or “the state of being free from public attention“. Now let’s stop for a moment and read carefully the above statements, are we really free from observation, disturbance or any kind of public attention when we are online? I don’t think so, and the biggest problem is that we are agreeing on this, accepting to be observed and disturbed, we are giving up many personal information, private or not, as well as our behavioral information with our consent most of the time.

The real question to ask is: Did we lost our privacy when we became connected to the online world? 

I don’t know if I can present a fair answer to this one. Can you?

Online Privacy
If it’s on the Internet, it isn’t private.

Are We Being Tracked?

Nowadays not only bad guys (black hat hackers) are looking and working to get unauthorized access to our private information and use them for their personal benefits, organizations and companies which have or don’t have online presence are also looking for ways to get hands-on our private information, even tracking our online presence, which is  usually referred to behavioral tracking. At some point I think that is it possible that we became some sort of a product to online services? and here I remember If You’re Not Paying for It; You’re the Product which is the strategy followed by most of the services provided nowadays, starting by search engines, social media sites, messengers, etc…

Who is Tracking Us?

As Geary and Cross said, no doubt that cookies and web trackers are being used to track our online behavior for personalized results and targeted marketing campaigns, the more important part of this is “who are the big players tracking us?“, how can we know them and determine for what purpose they are tracking our online presence and how they are using the collected information. In addition to that, is there a way to stock them from tracking us?

I have to point out here that tracking is not always bad, but we should have the right to know who is tracking us, for what and how can we stop it? Even better, it from our right to disable tracking and this should be an easy and clear task for every person.

Track The Trackers

Mozilla Team came up with a great tool that enables us to track and see who is tracking our online presence, this tool is called collusion available as an Add-on for Firefox and Chrome Extension enabling us to see the sites we have visited and the trackers following us, then collaborate and help Mozilla with that information.

Collusion for Chrome
Sample screenshot for what my version of Collusion for Chrome, showing the sites I’ve visited and additional trackers which are more than double or the visited ones.

Here is Gary Kovacs the CEO of Mozilla Corporation talking about the add-on and how it works in a interesting talk at TED.COM

Now how do you feel of being tracked? Go ahead give collusion a try and share with us the results, how many sites that you don’t know are tracking you?

Image courtesy of Donkeyhotey.