At this point in time, most denizens of the Internet have come to expect online tracking by governments and social networks. But it might still be surprising to find out that their go-to sources of news are tracking them as well.
The website Trackography uses an interactive map to make clear which media companies are exposing their readers to third-party tracking. For better or worse, the prevailing business model for journalism is to create content that readers will click on so that their information can be harvested and sold to data collectors.
Visitors to Trackography select their home country and a list of the media outlets that they regularly read. Then Trackography’s map will display where your connection is being bounced around the world either for connections to tracking companies or the servers of the outlets you read. It will also display the number of “unintended connections” that result from your news browsing. Those connections are to third parties that are likely collecting and storing information about you.
Tactical Tech chose to focus on media companies because of the in-depth dossiers that can be constructed based on someone’s media browsing habits. Just from the news you read, data brokers can glean your political beliefs and economic status. Cookies and other technologies can be used to track your browsing activities beyond the media site you initially visited.
That information is a valuable commodity sold to companies that want to put targeted advertisements on your screen.
Notably, there is not yet a comprehensive list of U.S. media on the site, a function of the fact that the tool is still in beta. So users are unable to set the U.S. as their home country. Nonetheless, global news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN can be selected from any home country. (So if you live in the U.S. and want to use the tool, just pretend you live in Canada for the time being.)
For people who want to protect their privacy, Tactical Tech offers a list of solutions that can decrease your risk of being tracked.