The Web's New Gold Mine: Your Secrets
The Web's New Gold Mine: Your Secrets A Journal investigation finds that one of the fastest-growing businesses on the Internet is the business of spying on consumers. First in a series...
By JULIA ANGWIN
JULY 30, 2010
Hidden inside Ashley Hayes-Beaty's computer, a tiny file helps gather personal details about her, all to be put up for sale for a tenth of a penny.
The file consists of a single code-4c812db292272995e5416a323e79bd37 -that secretly identifies her as a 26-year-old female in Nashville, Tenn.
The code knows that her favorite movies include "The Princess Bride," "50 First Dates" and "10 Things I Hate About You." It knows she enjoys the "Sex and the City" series. It knows she browses entertainment news and likes to take quizzes.
"Well, I like to think I have some mystery left to me, but apparently not!" Ms. Hayes-Beaty said when told what that snippet of code reveals about her. "The profile is eerily correct." the rest
• Tracking technology is getting smarter and more intrusive. Monitoring used to be limited mainly to "cookie" files that record websites people visit. But the Journal found new tools that scan in real time what people are doing on a Web page, then instantly assess location, income, shopping interests and even medical conditions. Some tools surreptitiously re-spawn themselves even after users try to delete them.
• These profiles of individuals, constantly refreshed, are bought and sold on stock-market-like exchanges that have sprung up in the past 18 months.