Web Stalkers: Tracking the trackers - Tucson News Now

Web Stalkers: Tracking the trackers

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

From booting up, to logging on, to clicking here, for most of us going a day without the Internet can be like going without breathing: not possible.

"I know people use it for like marketing and things like that," said University of Arizona senior Brittney Rocha, who expects websites that she visits to track her every move.  But the sites that she doesn't know are watching catch her by surprise.

"I didn't know it was going to be to that extent.  Like, I was just going to go on some little website to check out a recipe and then like 30 websites are now following me," she said.

She didn't realize so many other sites watch her until she was asked to use a program called Collusion for this story.  She turned it on, surfed the web for five or ten minutes, and visited places like Facebook, her bank, Pinterest and Yahoo! news. Then she saw the web followers she gained with each click to a new site.

A web of dots were connected in a web on the screen in the Collusion program.  Blue ones were where she visited.  Red ones were known sites that watched her.  But the gray sites were unknown.  These sites gain insight into who we are just by tracking our behavior.  Clicking on links, like a recipe on Pinterest, hailed a swarm of sites to Brittney.

"You're not really giving your permission for them to track you.  I mean, I guess you are because you're going on the Internet and it's very public.  But they're not asking you, 'oh can this website track everything that you're doing?' They're not really asking permission for it." :56 especially for somebody who's younger," she said.

"I'm right there, I'm next to her, I watch what she's on, if she tries to stray it'll ask for permission," said Stephanie Solis about her four year-old daughter, Celest.

Collusion showed Solis how Celest still had her online behavior recorded by other sites as she returned to regular trusted ones where she played games or watched cartoons.

"They're very educational games, there's always like a motive behind it, a positive motive," Solis said.

But she didn't know the motives of all these sites, most of them gray, or unknown, and tracking her daughter after only about ten minutes online.

"I think it's a little weird," Solis said.  And she knew that her daughter would use the Internet the rest of her life.

"You can't control everything but it is scary as a parent," Solis said.

The best she can do is watch her daughter go to the safe places.  For now, Solis doesn't have a problem with that. 

"No because it's not like she's online chatting and meeting random people.  When she gets to that age, then it will be alarming but right now, I don't she can play games," she said.

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