The Privacy Hype and Why You Are Being Tracked


With the relatively recent advent of GDRP and the next inline to be released POPI act, people are starting to feel a bit more relaxed about their privacy on the internet. However, it seems some are taking it to the extreme, and there are websites out there that are blatantly taking advantage of it.

We want our privacy. We don’t want to be tracked. That’s great, I completely understand it and agree with it, but it’s not all that bad. What is happening though is that this has created a new gap in the market. Have you ever heard of DuckDuckGo? It’s a search engine that claims you will not track you by using it. They probably aren’t lying, because they may not be tracking you themselves, so they can get away with this claim. What they fail to mention is you are still being tracked by such sites as Google.

I actually came across DuckDuckGo when I was checking Google Analytics for one of my sites. In the sources report I found something called duckduckgo and got very curious as it is a weird name. I get it now, you duck, duck again, and then go to your search result. However, it appears these guys are trying to claim dominance in the search arena as most people would be supportive of their actions because of the whole privacy thing. What I find funny is that people believe this to be true, but as long as you have a Google account, you will be tracked, regardless. So the people who used DuckDuckGo because they thought they weren’t being tracked, got to my site and it recorded where they came from, i.e. DuckDuckGo. Do you see the irony?

Is this a bad thing? No it is not. Is it a violation of your privacy? I’d say no, because the analytics reports don’t give names and addresses, only insights into the audience. It will tell a website owner what age group most visitors are to their site, what gender, the most active locations around the world, but your personal details are still private.

And why is this information being tracked you may ask? Largely for your own benefit. Firstly, by tracking your actions on the internet, the information and suggestions that you see as you browse is more relevant to your own interests. Secondly, website owners can analyse the data and figure out how to improve their website so that their visitors (you) get more value out of the content they provide. So, tracking is not such a bad thing. Spam is, sure, that’s a pain in my rear as much as anyone else’s, but tracking the habits and demographics of an audience is only there to better your experience.

Kudos to the people who are taking advantage of the privacy acts and seeing a gap in the market to pull people away from their competitors, but seriously? Tracking serves a purpose and a very important one, not just for website owners, but also for you, the person being tracked.

Think about it. Whilst you are scrolling through your Facebook feed, would you rather be shown content that is relevant to your interests or just a whole load of random posts about things you couldn’t give two hoots about?

Think about it a different way. Whilst browsing websites you are shown adverts (it is how some people make a living and feed their families). Would you rather be shown adverts that have no interest whatsoever to you, or ones that you may find useful? If you are vegan for instance, would you rather see ads that are vegan friendly or ones that advertise the local butcher?

This is the purpose of tracking, to serve you with content that you find relevant, so don’t reject the technology. At the same time, make sure your personal information such as name, address and telephone number are being kept private.

Also ask yourself the question, are the people claiming to be supportive of my privacy by promising that I am not being tracked, just luring me in for their own gain by taking advantage of a pain point, and even possibly tracking more than they let on?

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