Online Tracking: Creepy Commerce?

Spying on American consumers is big business on the Internet. How companies slice, dice and sell your personal identity online.

The Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri, July 20, 2010. Advertising industry leaders are teaming up with the journalism school to launch the Institute for Advertising Ethics. (AP)

It’s pervasive. It’s intrusive. And it’s perfectly legal—at least for now.

A new breed of tracking companies are spying on internet users, then slicing and dicing the information they gather into a goldmine of consumer data. Just what do they know about you? Where you live. What you buy. Whether you’re fat or thin, married or single, a homeowner or renter…you name it.

If you’re online, chances are you’re being followed everywhere without ever knowing. We look at your personal identity, for sale.

-Betsy Stark


Julia Angwin, senior technology editor for the Wall Street Journal. She is the lead author of a new, in-depth series about tracking consumers online called “What They Know.”

Peter Eckersley, senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending consumer rights online.

Mike Zaneis, vice president for public policy at the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

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