Privacy lost

Earlier this year, Mozilla Corp. CEO Gary Kovacs gave a Ted Talk where he discussed our loss of privacy when using the Internet. Sure, most of us know that companies keep track of us when we visit. They track what we buy, size, color, price and more. Amazon knows what types of books we like to buy, Zappos knows our shoe shopping habits, Nike tracks our sneaker purchases, and countless other sites “remember us” when we visit their sites; many of them are quite happy to suggest future purchases that might interest us. Most of the time, this is fine. As savvy consumers who frequently use the Internet, we expect companies to gather data to use in their marketing and analysis. And, as marketers ourselves, we know there is gold in the databases.

However, has behavioral tracking gone too far? In this fascinating video, Kovacs introduces a new Firefox add-on program called “Collusion.” Collusion gives the user the visual capability to “track the trackers” – in other words, watch how often our online traffic is monitored by parties to whom we have not given express permission to do so. The scope of the behavioral tracking will likely surprise even the most experienced Web user.


Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Play the video on with the Gary Kovacs speech:
  2. Next, bring up the Mozilla explanation of data tracking and Collusion:
  3. Class discussion topics: What are the ethical implications of behavioral tracking? When is it useful to companies? Useful to consumers?
  4. What are the responsibilities of companies to their users? Should they ask permission? Or do users give implied permission just by visiting the site?
  5. What are the laws or regulations that affect this type of behavioral tracking? What should the laws cover?
  6. Ask students if they would be willing to install the application and report on what happens in a future class.

Source:, May 2012

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