E-tracking is the new reality

A shadow of a hand over a computer keyboard symbolizes online crime.

Jeremy Hobson: Well Onstar isn't the only company facing privacy concerns. Facebook is under pressure over the recent changes it made to its site. Those changes make it easier for third parties to see user information, and make it harder for users to
opt out. So what other companies are walking a fine line when it comes to privacy?

For answers, let's bring in LA Times consumer columnist David Lazarus. Good morning.

David Lazarus: Good morning.

Hobson: I don't have OnStar in my car, but I do have a cell phone in my pocket, and I assume that there are companies that would be more than happy or maybe are already using that data to sell to marketers.

Lazarus: 'Maybe are already?' Oh, how naive you are. Look at the whole frackus with Apple recently, where tracking software was found in the iPad, the iPhone. It was fairly benign -- it was helping with mapping services, but people just had kittens about that. It is extremely common.

First of all, your wireless device is essentially broadcasting your whereabouts 24 hours a day. But a lot of new apps out there are really just bringing it down to the microscopic level so that they can bring services, offers, coupons, all sorts of things to you right where you are. And then when you go online, your whereabouts are constantly being tracked. Advertisers love that and you have essentially no privacy when you're wandering around on the web.

Hobson: OK, well is there anything that we consumers can do about that if we don't want to be tracked and have our information sold all over the place?

Lazarus: I don't want to say there's nothing but you've got to be very, very aggressive. You've got to scrounge through the privacy policies of all the various companies you interact with to see if you can opt out from them.

Now essentially the rule of thumb is going to be if you are online or you're using a wireless device, someone is going to be looking over your shoulder. It's just the new reality. However, there is legislation in Congress that would have a "Do Not Tracking" feature where you can opt out from being tracked, but even then, we really don't know who's gathering this information or how they're using it.

Hobson: L.A. Times consumer columnist David Lazarus, thanks a lot.

Lazarus: I'm watching you, Jeremy.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...