By now, it's facile to think that we're not being watched whilst we're on the web. But the degree to which can at times be a little disconcerting. In fact, a lot disconcerting.
We address the question of whether humans have unique signatures – or clickprints – when they browse the Web. The importance of being able to answer this can be significant given applications to electronic commerce in general and in particular online fraud detection, a major problem in electronic commerce costing the economy billions of dollars annually.
And there are few if any corporations that don't have an email policy. Let's face it, you can't enforce a policy without some means of baselining and monitoring.
And I'm fine with that. That being monitored and identified incessantly. Or at least I thought I was.
But a funny thing happened on the way to researching a domain the other day. In a brainstorming session with my boss, we happened on an interesting idea/concept. I took it back to my desk and did a quick search to see if the domain was perchance available. And it was. At least it was until literally hours later when it wasn't.
Coincidence? Quite possibly. Science has devoted a lot of time, money and research into studying how two people have the same idea or spark of creativity, independently and at the same time. Maybe I'm being paranoid. But even my boss didn't know I was researching the domain causing a little tingle to go up the back of my neck. Realistically, I choose to believe that it wasn't me being monitored, but the tool I was using. It makes me feel better.
I had that same disconcerting feeling the other day when using Google Analytics. I think analytics are a great thing and I'm a huge fan.
But I'm not a huge fan of Google Analytics. Omniture, Hitwise, WebTrends, pretty much any analytics you choose to mention have the ability to analyze huge amounts of data. But they also have the appearance of objectivity and arm's length distance.
I'm completely in favor of competitive intelligence. But I'm still on the fence about attaching code that Google functionally owns to my web site so they can monitor my non-Google activity. It makes me nervous.
And frankly, I think it should make Yahoo, MSN and others a little nervous as well.
~ The (SEP) Guy
PS – It's February 15th. Has anyone else noticed the alt tag on Google still says Happy Valentine's Day?