The Government, and Our Advertisers, Are Well Aware of Your Fetishes

"If George Orwell had lived in the Internet age, he could have painted a grim picture of how Web monitoring could be used to promote authoritarianism. There is no need for neighborhood informants and paper dossiers if the government can see citizens' every Web site visit, e-mail and text message." Go ahead, pal, click "MORE". It's cool, nobody's gonna snitch.

The public has been slow to express outrage - not, as tech companies like to claim, because they don't care about privacy, but simply because few people know all that is going on. That is changing. "A lot of people are creeped-out by this," says Ari Schwartz, a vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology. He says the government is under increasing pressure to act.

The Federal Trade Commission has proposed self-regulatory guidelines for companies that do behavioral targeting. Anything that highlights the problem is good, but self-regulation is not enough. One idea starting to gain traction in Congress is a do-not-track list, similar to the federal do-not-call list, which would allow Internet users to opt out of being spied on. That would be a clear improvement over the status quo, but the operating principle should be "opt in" - companies should not be allowed to track Internet activities unless they get the user's expressed consent.

The founders wrote the Fourth Amendment - guaranteeing protection against illegal search and seizure - at a time when people were most concerned about protecting the privacy of their homes and bodies. The amendment, and more recent federal laws, have been extended to cover telephone communications. Now work has to be done to give Internet activities the same level of privacy protection. [NYT]

So, what does clicking around on li'l innocent Gawker reveal about you? Aside from the fact that you adore Julia Allison?