Internet advertisers are constantly watching your web activity, recording where you’ve been, what you’ve bought, who you’ve contacted. Should you be afraid of online advertisers?
In a word: No. At least, I don’t think so, and of course there are people who disagree. But I don’t like fear, I don’t like scare tactics, and I’d like to explain why I don’t think fear is the best choice here.
Some people seem to think there’s only two choices, two ways to respond when you find out just how much advertisers are tracking you.
One response is to try to block out tracking and advertising as much as possible. Although there are some tools to help with this, it’s a neverending battle against a multi-billion dollar industry. You’d have to go “off the grid” to fully prevent advertisers from knowing anything about you. This kind of response is driven at least partially by fear. Like I said, I don’t like fear.
The other response is to just let whatever happens, happen. This is saying, “I don’t know and I don’t care what is happening with my information.” Some people say this kind of response is about embracing the glorious future, but to me it seems like embracing apathy and ignorance. I understand why this kind of response can be attractive, but it’s not for me. I guess I like apathy and ignorance even less than fear.
I’d like to offer a third way: Find out what they know, and use that information to make them help you.
People describe online advertisers like this: It’s as if there’s someone following you everywhere you go, writing down everything you do in a little notebook, so they can use those notes to sell stuff to you.
My response to that isn’t to run away from the guy with the notebook. I’m not going to run and hide, but I’m also not going to stop caring that this guy with a notebook is following me around. Instead, I want to look at the guy and say, “Hey buddy, what’s in that notebook?” And then I’d like to tell him that he works for me now, he should be doing what I want him to do.