Can You Really Browse Privately?

July 11, 2008 by
Filed under: DAILY Dose of PC News 

The Senate Commerce Committee met yesterday, June 10th, to discuss one of the biggest issues that the internet is facing and will face for quite some time: online privacy. The debate stems around internet marketers and advertising companies, like Google, who track every single site you click and/or search.

One side of the argument states that companies need to be held accountable and ensure that no IP addresses are tagged in these search queries and the other side argues that it’s nearly impossible to know what companies may be able to track a user doing whenever they can track IP addresses. IP addresses are unique to each computer therefore liking it to a social security number.

Senator Byron Dorgan, part of the Commerce Committee, mentioned his dislike of advertising companies having the ability to track users’ information online. “If my ISP said, ‘Is it ok if we give everything you do to another company?’ I’d say of course it’s not ok,” he said. “Online advertising is important; I understand that [but] there are so many unanswered questions about [online] information and how people navigate the Web.”

According to PC Magazine, the stronger issue is even though an IP address may not include a person’s name and location, if that IP address is googling their own name, place of work, or address then all someone has to do is tie that information with the IP address and you’ve basically identified someone who was considered “anonymous”. Senator Dorgan continued grilling online advertising execs by stating, “maybe an ISP comes in and [says], ‘Whenever anyone does something on our system, we’re going to shovel all that information to you as its being done. What’s the difference between that and wiretapping?”

Naturally, the online advertising companies disagree. They argue that the benefits of online advertising (targeted to specific demographics) outweigh the fears people have that information could be misused. Some even argued that if you’re looking to be total anonmyous, then being on the internet is not for you.

What do you think? Do you think online privacy is doable or do you think it’s only going to get worse and people are going to become more public than they ever thought?

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