By Emma Teitel - Friday, February 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
The information superhighway is so personalized that it’s often just a road to what you already know
In the third year of Facebook’s existence, I sat in the back of an after school Judaica class called Torah High and listened to a rabbi proselytize about the evils of social media. Jews don’t usually believe in the devil, but I suspect he did. The Internet, the rabbi said, was an evil place. Facebook, YouTube and Google were where vice found company; where freaks found freaks, tax evaders found tax evaders, terrorists found terrorists, and Jewish men found Gentile women. It was a world built on individual choice and preference and given every choice imaginable, we were bound to make the wrong ones.
Torah High isn’t exactly Yeshiva, or rabbinical school: a typical afternoon consisted of kosher pizza (looks like pizza, tastes like chicken) and awkward, long-winded lectures in pop philosophy. I imagined the Torah High rabbis as the televangelists Jews never had, stuck interminably with a shiftless, godless audience. But that day our rabbi was onto something—not the iniquity of cyberspace (I was 15 at the time and would have been at home, on Facebook, if I wasn’t listening to him admonish it), but the notion that pursuing your interests to the end of the Earth—even a digital Earth—was, maybe, not ideal for the soul. What our rabbi didn’t know, however, was that the future of the Internet’s most insidious damage lay not in people pursuing their own interests, but in our interests pursuing us. Continue…
By Chris Sorensen - Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at 5:24 PM - 0 Comments
Companies are using your private information to make sure you pay more, and see less online
It’s called “behavioural tracking,” and it has ballooned in recent years. A recent study by the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology at the University of California found the web’s top 100 sites left a total of 5,795 cookies on its test computer this year, compared with 3,602 three years ago, a 60 per cent increase. Another study by data-management company Krux Digital found that a visit to an average web page triggered an average of 56 instances of data collection in 2012, up from 10 instances in 2010. “I look at this picture and it freaks me out,” Gary Kovacs, the CEO of Mozilla, recently told a packed auditorium as he unveiled a new plug-in for the company’s popular Firefox browser that allows users to “track the trackers” and see the results in a nifty graphical interface. “I’m being stalked across the web.”
Indeed. Where advertisers once simply threw up banner ads on high-traffic websites and hoped for the best, behavioural tracking now allows them to beam individually tailored ads, in real time, to users just as they land on a web page. The decision to show you an ad can be based on your geographic location, what else you’ve looked at online or, in some cases, educated guesses about your age, income and marital status. And thanks to ever more invasive technologies (more on this later), there’s no guarantee that simply toggling off cookies in your browser settings will stop the snooping.