They did what? Companies are Tracking Your Buying Habits

Online behavioral advertising methods are advancing at an incredibly fast pace, the internet, combined with today’s data-collection technology, poses serious privacy concerns. The novelty of posting your photos, thoughts, videos to networks such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube brings on new issues never considered in the past. Mark Cuban recommends deleting your past Tweets and Facebook posts so information will not be used in “profiling” you . Cuban claims all of your likes, interactions, photos are going to put you into a defined category, and predictions will be made on what you do next.


Companies are tracking consumer buying habits for analysis; it allows marketers to customize their ads to their audience.  One constituent of online privacy is information security including sensitive health and personal lifestyle choices. Consumer’s health information is increasingly put at risk by companies saving it in their databases. 

Consumers are not clear how to opt out of information sharing most of the time, and advertisers should be aware and communicate their software tracking methods.  E-mail campaigns can be seen as spam, so most companies offer consumers the chance to opt out, or to no longer receive the company’s e-mails. There are also concerns about privacy. Many consumers have an aversion to their browsing habits being tracked and analyzed online. Safeguards for a company to provide to their potential consumer would be to disclose what information will be kept in the company database.

Most people think they have little control when it comes to how companies use their information. And that might be true with retailers tracking information from third-party sources of their web browsing patterns, credit history, and comments posted on social media webpages. Third party cookies (tiny viruses), web tools track consumers as they click through websites, and the data is sold to other companies.

Facebook was ordered by the FTC in 2012 to create a comprehensive privacy policy that is clear to their users.  FB was ordered to be “transparent and consistent”.   Google is another company that had to revise it’s Google privacy policy link.  The internet giant had 60 separate disjointed policies, ultimately the new policy explained to users they were giving up privacy rights in their Google searches. In 2012 Google settled for about 22 million dollars for neglecting privacy of their users.

Many corporations need to be careful of unprofessional and unjust behavior considering corporate social responsibility (CSR).  The company strategy should include applying a high quality and ethical, social media program that ultimately has the trust of the audience. Program ethics, transparency, and accountability must all be in place.   Don’t sell your customers data, let consumers chose data they want to make available to companies.  Let customers know if a third party site is installing tracking cookies on their computer for data mining purposes. Mandate clear and meaningful disclosures regarding how and why social networking sites, Web-based email providers, search engines, and the other Internet companies with whom we do business, track and store our data before a customer signs up for the services and prohibit any changes to those policies after the customer has entered into a contractual relationship with the company. 

For help in researching how you can protect your personal information, try a public interest group (also non profit), World Privacy Forum You will find in-depth assistance on protecting your health records, news reports, and forums for guidance.  I recommend tips for iPhone users for mobile privacy.


•Cunnington, T. P. (2014). Internet privacy. Salem Press Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

•Advertising Gets Personal. (2012). Communications of the ACM, 55(8), 18-20. doi:10.1145/2240236.2240243. Retrieved from

•Witte, D. S. (2014). Privacy deleted: Is it too late to protect our privacy online? Journal of Internet Law, 17(7), 1-28. Retrieved from



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