ARCHIVED - Did You Know?
Everything you do online is recorded in some way. And, for better or worse, a lot of this information is gathered and used for commercial purposes.
Data is big business, with money to be made from the tracking, profiling and targeting of the trail of personal data that Internet surfers leave behind.
When you go online, data about your browsing habits is collected through digital markers. HTTP cookies, flash cookies and web beacons are currently the most common ways that information is gathered. This could include your IP address, the web pages you visit, the length of time you spend on those pages, the advertisements you view, the articles you read, the purchases you make, as well as data about your whereabouts gathered through GPS.
Over time, a surprisingly detailed profile of you and your online behaviour can form.
But why does tracking, profiling and targeting occur?
Advertising is a key source of revenue for web-based companies so advertisers are looking for better ways to market their products and services directly to you. Online tracking provides one avenue. Some studies also indicate that some people enjoy receiving information that is specifically tailored to their interests.
But these practices are not without risks to users. For example, individuals can lose control over the flow of their personal information. There’s also the chance that inaccurate data gets into circulation, which could affect your online experiences. What’s more, you may not even be aware of these problems, and would therefore take no steps to remedy them.
In spring 2010, our Office conducted in-depth consultations on the tracking, profiling and targeting of consumers by marketers and other businesses. We invited written briefs, and also held forums in Toronto and Montreal. (A separate consultation on cloud computing was held in Calgary in June.)
A draft report of the consultations was posted for comment on our website in late October, and a final report is coming soon.