Michelle De Mooy: Hi! I'm Michelle De Mooy with Consumer Action and today, I'm going to talk to you about online tracking. When you go online, whether you're using a computer, a mobile device or even a GPS device in your car, you produce data in some form. Most of the time the data is basic information about who you are and what you're doing online, but when enough of that data is gathered together, personal details that you may consider to be private, become known to vast universe of advertising and marketing companies and that information is used to send you ads.
When companies follow you around online in order to record information activities, this is called online tracking. When you visit a website, you might expect the website to follow you around as you read different pages or access different information, but what many people are surprised to learn that companies called third-parties, are also following you around and recording information such as websites you visit and services you use.
Advertisers hope to send ads that they consider to be more relevant to your life, but they do this without your knowledge. Advertisers have discovered financial value to combining data that they get about you in real-time or right when you're looking at a webpage, with data they have already collected about you such as your address, your income and the number of children you have, even more sensitive information like medical conditions, financial information, social security numbers and data on political causes and sexual orientation can be accessed by these advertisers.
Companies called data brokers have emerged as specialist in data tracking and collection. These companies use information they have gathered to create detailed profiles of you that are sold to advertisers and websites via a real-time exchange, similar to stock market trading.
Consumers are mostly in the dark about online tracking and they don't have much of a choice about it. There are very real reasons to be concerned about online tracking. Information from online data collection has been used to deny employment, health insurance claims and loans and also support dynamic pricing which is an increase in the price on a product or service that varies from person to person and enable domestic violence assaults and stoking.
Be aware of your activities online, because you never know who's watching.