Right now, a data aggregator probably knows you’re reading this post.
A data aggregator probably knows what other websites you’ve visited today, this week, this month, this year. It may well have sold that information to a bank that will deny you a home loan one day because of the sites you’ve visited.
Sound far-fetched? It’s not.
I guess I never realized what I was looking at when I viewed shopping aggregators’ sites. I even naively wrote about it in a blog post last fall, saying how cool it was that ads for my favorite online shopping sites were popping up—bike shops instead of ladies lingerie or whatever (Smart Ads, Yea or Nay).
But it turns out it wasn’t shopping convenience I was looking at—it was the benign face of an unsavory character. It was targeted marketing based on information I never wanted shared with advertisers.
If you don’t know, aggregators are websites that gather data from other websites and put it into one place—there are aggregators for data, news, polls, searches, social networks, videos, blogs…
Orbitz and Travelocity are aggregators—benign ones. They gather flights, hotels, rental cars, et cetera from a bunch of sites and show you all your options when you’re planning a vacation.
Nice, right? And it is. But those are the benign aggregators that have contractual agreements with the airlines, hotels, car-rental agencies, et cetera to connect customers and service providers.
But there’s another type of aggregator that’s decidedly not nice—the aggregators that don’t have contractual agreements with anyone whose data is being used in decidedly not nice ways.
According to the New York Times, Consumer Reports conducted a poll in 2008 asking 2,000 participants about privacy and permissions on the Internet. The poll found “that 93 percent thought Internet companies should always ask for permission before using personal information, and 72 percent wanted the right to opt out of online tracking.”
That’s not happening, at all. Stay tuned for the second part of this post, Burnt Cookies…