'You Are The Product:' Privacy Policy Agreement Give Sites, Apps The Right To Track Users

By Monica Laliberte, WRAL consumer reporter

As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was questioned by members of Congress on Wednesday, much of the discussion involved privacy and the use and abuse of data by Facebook. The reality is, however, that many companies track everything users do through data mining.

At the heart of the issue is the realization that when a person doesn’t pay for something, they’re not the customer, but the product being sold. Nearly every app and internet site collects or mines information, but many people still don’t understand what that means.

“You are the product. There’s a reason why they’re after you,” said Kathy Sorber.

Like Sorber, most people instantly see the impact of data mining ads that pop-up after a specific search.

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In 2014, 5 On Your Side investigated the kinds of data that are collected and sold. WRAL News bought thousands of names and addresses of local people listed as having serious health issues, including cancer, high blood pressure and depression, as well as a list of moms-to-be and their addresses.

Most of the information gathered by data miners starts with the privacy policies that few people read. Whether for online retailers, navigation, social media or even banks, most privacy policies spell out their right to sell information to third parties for almost any purpose.

The software add-on Lightbeam demonstrates the enormity of third-party connections, by showing websites a user visited versus third-party sites that were never clicked on, but communicated with the visited sites to track user movement.

In just five minutes, Lightbeam showed four sites connected to 108 third-party sites.

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“You figure if you sign in with your password, it’s private, until you go in and you find out maybe not so much private as you thought,” Sorber said.

The collection and use of data and the user’s ability to control that is at the core of the Facebook Congressional hearing. Facebook is the biggest player in the game, so the fallout, including possible regulation, will impact other connected companies.

Source : http://www.wral.com/-you-are-the-product-privacy-policy-agreement-give-sites-apps-the-right-to-track-users-/17480278/

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