Collecting data is particularly easy on the internet- HTTP protocol allows servers to set and read cookies. Cookies are unique identifiers that store information about a transaction. They stay on a consumers’ computer after they navigate away from a page, so that the next time they access the server using the same account, the company can retrieve the identification that gives them details of their past purchases. The cookie file is first placed on the internet by the retailer and then transferred to the customer hard drive when the customer goes to the site and accepts cookies. The consumer database then tracks the consumers movements and purchases on the internet and stores it on their server.
Spyware is similar in concept to the cookie- you download a free program and a file is placed on your hard drive. This file is connected to your email address, so firms may track your purchase habits and your webpage views and send you spam emails for items you shop for. Spyware also allows firms to gather credit card information, transmit confidential files, change your browser homepage, display annoying popups, install new toolbars, display advertising on your desktop, and cause your computer to be slow.
This policy explicitly outlines they will be spying on you and using your private information- and most people never bother to read it. Not surprisingly, Webshots allows its advertisers to track your data and assumingly, use it to discriminate against you.
Static internet addresses, direct user authentication and RFID tags are other ways of collecting data. RFID tags are miniscule microchips, which already have shrunk to half the size of a grain of sand. They listen for a radio query and respond by transmitting their unique ID code. Most RFID tags have no batteries: They use the power from the initial radio signal to transmit their response. CNET News.com’s own Alorie Gilbert wrote last week that Wal-Mart and the U.K.-based grocery chain Tesco are starting to install “smart shelves” with networked RFID readers. Gillette also recently said it would purchase 500 million RFID tags. They can read the cell phone or Palm Pilot and track what a consumer buys. They also interact with your television, so if you are shopping online for something, your television has the capacity to intercept this data and offer local ads geared toward that product. This type of monitoring is still in the initial phases of testing and use, but by the way large companies are buying these tags up, privacy will become more encroached very soon.