Dr. Nathalie Maréchal, a senior research fellow at Ranking Digital Rights, wrote in 2018 on Motherboard:
Online tracking is ubiquitous, Tim Libert, of Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab Security and Privacy Institute, told me in an email. “Across the top one million websites you will be tracked on 91 percent of sites. I’ve been doing these types of scans for years and the results are always the same: you can’t browse the web without being tracked, period. Companies track you when you visit medical websites, pornography websites, websites for lawyers, websites for politicians, newspaper websites, and the same goes for apps. There are very few things that people don’t seek out or share using a computer and nearly all of that is tracked, all the time, by the billion dollar giants you see in the news as well as hundreds of companies you’ve never heard of.”
Libert adds that techniques to limit tracking are “like taking aspirin to cure your cancer, it may make you feel a little better for a few hours but you’re still dealing with cancer. The only way to root out the cancer of targeted advertising is regulation.”
I read articles like this all the time and I accept that significant tracking is just about everywhere online. The big question is what if anything to do about it:
Some don’t worry about privacy saying they have nothing to hide. I don’t find that a satisfying response. Some things ought to be private.
Others, seek to have no digital presence. That’s a lot of effort and, in any event, who wants to be the man in the tin foil hat? The modern internet offers many benefits.
In the middle, are people like journalism professor and podcast personality Jeff Jarvis who argue that although Facebook and its ilk have their faults journalists ought “to work with Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, et al because they are running the internet of the day; they are the gateways to the public we serve; and they need our help to do the right thing.”
It’s time to get past describing the challenge and get on with building a better internet.