What Do Internet Tracking Companies Know About You?

The FTC is recommending a universal “Do Not Track” option online that would give consumers the ability to opt-out of third-party online tracking for advertising purposes. As marketers we certainly understand the value of customer and prospect behavior, but when do we draw that line on privacy as consumers?

After I heard the news about the FTC’s “Do Not Track” recommendation, I wanted to find out just how much information these third-party companies are tracking about me. I found a good article on NPR, “Tracking the Companies that Track You Online”.

NPR selected a 26-year-old female, and with the help of the Wall Street Journal and third-party tracking companies determined that third-party tracking companies knew about her favorite movies, age, hometown, that she liked quizzes and entertainment news.

Another article I found on Wall Street Journal stated over time, these third-party companies will start to predict other information about you based on your interests, including your marital status and creditworthiness.

Certainly I realize that Google knows my hometown because I can tell that when I conduct Google searches. Or on Facebook, I’m not surprised when I see boating ads because I listed boating as a hobby in my profile. But for these third-party companies to know my likes and dislikes and start making predictions about me is a bit invasive and I do think some industry regulation is necessary to protect consumers.

To take this a step further, these third-party tracking companies are also tracking our youngsters, who are heavily influenced by advertising.

So what do you think? Where should online tracking stop? Is the industry doing a good job of self-regulating? Or does the government need to step in?

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