In today’s Quick Hits, we talk about new online tracking technology that is nearly impossible to disable, why one mom thinks friending one’s children online is a bad idea, and how more and more people are using privacy controls on social networking websites.
The Wall Street Journal reports that several major websites “have been tracking people’s online activities using powerful new methods that are almost impossible for computer users to detect.” These so-called “supercookies” are “capable of re-creating users’ profiles after people deleted regular cookies, according to researchers at Stanford University and University of California at Berkeley.” As more people become aware of the privacy ramifications of online tracking, the advertising industry is looking for ways to continue accessing valuable consumer information online. Currently, “supercookies” are legal, but that might change depending on whether Congress takes up anti-tracking legislation.
A Florida teacher, who was once named Teacher of the Year, has been suspended from the classroom after he compared gay marriage to a “cesspool” in a post on his Facebook page. The veteran educator is arguing that his suspension is unmerited because he made the comments on his personal page during his personal time. A school district investigation will determine whether to take additional action against the teacher.
In an interesting article for The Daily Mail, Rachel Halliwell argues that parents shouldn’t friend their children on websites like Facebook, because, in her experience, it’s better to not know all of the things teens talk about online. Halliwell, who says she checked up on her daughter obsessively for a time, writes that “In the end I got so sick of worrying myself stupid about what they were up to that I deleted them all from my Facebook account — my own daughter included.”
Despite her decision to disconnect from her daughter online, Halliwell does acknowledge that social media has made adolescence much different. Quoting the article, “Our kids are the first generation of teens to have grown up with instant communication. They have no recollection of life before it. And however uncomfortable we adults feel with this set-up, there is no way to turn back the clock.”
Earlier in the month, a small faction of the hacker group Anonymous made headlines by declaring plans to take down Facebook on November 5th. Immediately, several representatives from Anonymous distanced the group from the operation, as tech writers questioned how a small group of hackers could take down Facebook in the first place. On Monday, someone managing the @Op_Facebook account tied to the operation posted a message saying “We Can’t Take Facebook Down…Yet” and calling the operation an awareness campaign. In other words, the operation is currently dead, but may return in the future.
According to a survey from Webroot security, people are becoming much more privacy-aware. Quoting TechCrunch, “between 2009 and 2011, Webroot says, the number of US social network users who have never viewed or changed their privacy settings plummeted from 37 percent in 2009 to 8 percent in 2011.” TechCrunch attributes the increase in privacy awareness to widespread publicity around privacy issues.