Business

Big Brother is watching

Read time 2min 30sec

Every move an Internet user makes online is often tracked by online marketers and advertising companies that gather information about that user.

So says Dominic White, a security consultant at SensePost, who notes that while online privacy is important, this has impacted the revenue models of advertisers on Internet browsers.

Currently, he explains, Internet browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are building 'do not track' features in their Web browsers.

He says this is in response to a campaign from Stanford Law School Centre for Internet and Society and an FCC inquiry on the matter. 'Do not track' is a technology that enables users to opt out of third-party Web tracking, including behavioural advertising.

Online tracking

White will be presenting at the sixth annual ITWeb Security Summit, to be held at the Sandton Convention Centre from 10 to 12 May.

White's presentation entitled politics and technology of online privacy will be addressing the challenges and legality around online tracking.

“We are seeing online privacy becoming an issue in 2011,” says White. “Tunisia is capturing people's passwords on Twitter and Facebook and they are even accessing encrypted messages.

“For the right price, someone's personal details can be sold. Users need technological solutions, until legislation from governments and voluntary compliance from advertisers creates a provable tracking prevention, rather than token gestures, which still allow tracking.”

Privacy is critical

ITWeb's Security Summit 2011

More information about the ITWeb's Security Summit 2011, which takes place from 10-12 May 2011, at the Sandton Convention Centre, is available online here.

Currently, reports reveal that Google is under a Federal Communications Commission investigation for capturing private homeowner information with its Street View feature.

Facebook also revealed that in the next few weeks, it will allow application developers to access users' mobile phone numbers and addresses.

On SA's legal front, White adds: “The Protection of Personal Information Bill won't address online privacy. However, the main advantage is that companies will need to declare what they use data for, which gives users greater insight, and the data is tied to its purpose.”

According to White, the biggest danger around online privacy is that organisations make decisions based on inaccurate data. Data you think is private or used in a particular context can be used against you out of context.”

White adds that online tools such as ad blockers can be used to prevent personal information from being captured and shared.

“The danger is that it breaks the free Web, as advertisers cannot monetise their content on Web browsers. Privacy Choice will opt a user out of tracker and will show the user what information advertisers have on the user.”

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