You're Being Watched

August 24, 2020

I've been more conscious about online privacy lately. Maybe it's because I'm building more websites and have to consider traffic analytics. Or it might be due to the ever-present advertisements that mysteriously match searches on other platforms.

Whatever it is, I'm not a fan of all the tracking. We know these large companies are tracking us. But we don't do anything about it. Why? Let's think about that.

Services that track us

So we know online tracking is a thing. We have at least heard about 'cookies' on websites. But do we know what they're for?

Many websites say, "Accept our cookies so we can provide you the best experience on our site." And they'll remember some details about you so you don't have to fill something out next time you visit. But it's phrased in a way that disguises the fact that they're remembering something about you.

Most websites really are just trying to make your life easier. But there are larger entities tracking you too.

You might ask, "If I know who is tracking me, I can just stop using their services and websites, right?"

Here are some examples of companies that track you: Facebook. Google. Amazon. The list goes on and on. Maybe it's not so easy to get away from them...

Motives for tracking

What do these companies have in common? They offer services for free in exchange for your attention so they can make money advertising to you.

"But they only track you within their services, right?" Wrong. They reach much farther than that. With social login options, they're able to observe your movement in those apps as well.

It's also possible for their trackers to access sites you're browsing within the same session. All of the tracking seems excessive to me, but it's hard to get away from the platforms and services. There are some truly useful tools.

For example, I'm a fan of the google suite. Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Photos, Drive, etc. Lots of productivity there. But is the exchange of free services for my attention really worth it?

Other options

Lately, I've been drawn away from Google Chrome to Firefox as a browser because of their commitment to privacy. DuckDuckGo is my preferred search engine over Google because of their commitment to privacy and unbiased search results.

There aren't many alternatives to Facebook, but I use the platform less and less.

There are other email providers, but it's a hassle to switch.

Maybe I'm just being paranoid. Is it that big of a deal that they track us so much? Some people argue the value these services offer is worth it. I don't know if I have an answer, it's a gray area.

I do know that we need to take a step back and think about things that are handed out so freely. What's the hidden cost of the free price tag? This doesn't just apply to software and websites.

Large businesses don't typically do things for free out of the goodness of their heart unless it's an obvious charity. Often times, there's another motive that might not be so obvious if it's a service they offer.

Stay vigilant and don't be afraid to ask questions.

Start a conversation

What do you think? Start a conversation by emailing me or messaging me on twitter.