Risk
3/30/2011
02:05 PM
50%
50%

Schwartz On Security: Online Privacy Battles Advertising Profits

Do businesses have the right to make money from the unregulated buying and selling of personal information?

Are people being hurt when their browsing habits and personal details are collected by online advertising groups?

Privacy rights organizations say yes, that people's sensitive information shouldn't be left in the hands of businesses that benefit from buying and selling it. Online advertising and financial services groups, however, argue that tracking is essential for delivering more relevant advertising, and of course it's the uptake of this advertising that keeps the lights on at many a Web site.

Those opinions come from the 442 comments received by the FTC after it released, in December 2010, its proposal for a privacy framework for public feedback. In the framework, the FTC proposes regulating companies that handle or collect people's personal information, and providing options such as Do Not Track for consumers to opt out of online tracking.

As that proposal suggests, the currently unregulated, free-market approach to selling people's personal information is drawing intense scrutiny. That's due in no small part to The Wall Street Journal's July 2010 What They Know investigative reporting, which detailed the array of cookies and surveillance technologies being used to monitor the who, what, and where of Web site visits. The latest technology can even function in real time, correlating email addresses, movie preferences, income, medical conditions, and more, while resisting attempts to be deactivated.

Online tracking isn't a small business. Notably, the Journal's investigation found that the top 50 Web sites -- which account for about 40% of all page views -- kept close tabs on their users, installing on average 64 different pieces of surveillance technology. For comparison's sake, noted the reporters, Wikipedia installed none.

Furthermore, a thriving micro-economy has emerged in which collected information gets traded on stock-market-like exchanges. According to the report, "in between the Internet user and the advertiser, the Journal identified more than 100 middlemen -- tracking companies, data brokers, and advertising networks -- competing to meet the growing demand for data on individual behavior and interests."

These businesses like life just the way it is, thank you very much. In particular, the Interactive Advertising Bureau -- its nearly 500 members sell and support interactive advertising -- "believes that the appropriate approach to addressing consumer online privacy issues is through industry self-regulation and education," according to its comments on the proposed FTC privacy framework. Self-regulation, it said, will "address privacy concerns while ensuring that the Internet can thrive, thereby benefiting both consumers and the U.S. Economy."

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-7896
Published: 2015-03-03
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in HP XP P9000 Command View Advanced Edition Software Online Help, as used in HP Device Manager 6.x through 8.x before 8.1.2-00, HP XP P9000 Tiered Storage Manager 6.x through 8.x before 8.1.2-00, HP XP P9000 Replication Manager 6.x and 7.x before ...

CVE-2014-9283
Published: 2015-03-03
The BestWebSoft Captcha plugin before 4.0.7 for WordPress allows remote attackers to bypass the CAPTCHA protection mechanism and obtain administrative access via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2014-9683
Published: 2015-03-03
Off-by-one error in the ecryptfs_decode_from_filename function in fs/ecryptfs/crypto.c in the eCryptfs subsystem in the Linux kernel before 3.18.2 allows local users to cause a denial of service (buffer overflow and system crash) or possibly gain privileges via a crafted filename.

CVE-2015-0656
Published: 2015-03-03
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the login page in Cisco Network Analysis Module (NAM) allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unspecified vectors, aka Bug ID CSCum81269.

CVE-2015-0890
Published: 2015-03-03
The BestWebSoft Google Captcha (aka reCAPTCHA) plugin before 1.13 for WordPress allows remote attackers to bypass the CAPTCHA protection mechanism and obtain administrative access via unspecified vectors.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
How can security professionals better engage with their peers, both in person and online? In this Dark Reading Radio show, we will talk to leaders at some of the security industry’s professional organizations about how security pros can get more involved – with their colleagues in the same industry, with their peers in other industries, and with the IT security community as a whole.