An article, in the Wall Street Journal, titled Firm Mines Offline Data To Target Online Ads details how a database marketing firm mates public records, survey information, and tracking cookies secretly placed on people’s computers, to sell this tracking information to web marketers wishing to display targeted ads on your computer. If you think this sounds a bit like a toilet paper company putting a hidden camera in your bathroom, so they can offer to sell their product when you run low, you are not far off the mark. Should you be concerned? Absolutely! Is there anything you can do about it? Yes!
In Internet Explorer, click on Tools — Internet Options — Privacy. You can either set the privacy level to Medium or higher — up to Block All Cookies, or you could click on Advanced, and check Override automatic cookie handling, and Block first party cookies and third party cookies, then check Always allow session cookies. This last option should allow you to login to your bank or brokerage. You may want to experiment a bit. While you are at it, under the General tab of Internet Options, (assuming Internet Explorer 7) you can click on Delete — Delete all. Please be aware that doing so will delete all cookies, form data and passwords that Internet Explorer has stored on your computer. This may cause you some inconvenience, but will help protect your online privacy.
Taking these precautions will make it impractical for marketers to monetize your online privacy. While you’re still outraged, why don’t you write to your congressperson and request legislation to protect your privacy?