I've been doing a little digging lately. No, not with a shovel, on the Internet. For one of my classes I've been tasked with writing a long informative article on a topic of my choice. After considering a few topics I decided on online advertising, looking into how it works, privacy implications, and how one could "opt-out" if they wished.
Personally, I haven't really cared. I'm well aware that Google knows more about me than I do, and frankly I'm okay with that. That's the cost of more free services than I could ever use. I always figured, though, that if I ever did care, that there were some things I could do to help. I mean, the Do Not Track initiative is a thing that exists to help prevent online advertisers from tracking people across different websites. And most tracking happens with cookies, and those are easy enough to clear. But what I've found is that the situation is a little more intense than I thought.
Google has been researching alternative ways of tracking users across sites. Microsoft has been working on a method as well that would track users across multiple devices, including XBox. And as it turns out, Do Not Track isn't quite all it's cracked up to be.
After all this digging I'm a little less optimistic for users who want a high level of privacy. Surveillance has become the business model of the Internet. And though my larger piece won't really tackle the bigger issues of privacy or offer much of a way out for users, I hope I can shed some light on the reality of the situation for people to decide.
Like I said before, I personally don't really care. As far as I can tell, information about me is being anonymized enough to sort of protect my identity. I'm not sure what I'll find as I keep digging, but at the moment I think the only alternative for anyone who is seriously concerned about privacy is to simply not be on the Internet.