Go ahead, invade my privacy -- I'm honored

By Michael Schulder, CNN senior executive producer

ATLANTA (CNN) -- You know what I like about the Internet trackers -- the ones that follow my every move on the Web? They care about me. They don't mind that I'm 50, that I've been kicked out of the prized 18-49 year old demo.

Oh, I know what they're doing can feel like an invasion of privacy. But I've got other issues to deal with.

Michael Schulder

I'm on a mission. A mission to destroy the myth that the 18-49 demo, of which I was a member for 31 years, holds some unique added value to the advertisers who support my industry. I'm hoping these Internet trackers, with their finely honed tools for determining an individual's likes and dislikes, might help me.

And yet. I must pay heed to the new report out this week from the Federal Trade Commission on how the trackers are impacting my privacy and yours.

"Consumers," says the FTC, "live in a world where information about their purchasing behavior, online browsing habits, and other online and offline activity is collected, analyzed, combined, used, and shared, often instantaneously and invisibly."

The trackers will tell you that the targeted advertising enabled by this invasion -- the ads that often seem custom made for us -- helps make a lot of free services possible.

But there may be a hidden price. On pages 35-36 of the government report, the FTC explains how the separation between anonymous information and information that can identify us by name, is eroding. That the "scope of data collection" has become so "comprehensive," that it could be turned into "profiles that can be linked to a specific person."

That's not being done now, says the government. But the potential is there.

And so the FTC recommends that we need a new option: The ability to log on and click something like an icon that says "Do Not Track." Leave me alone. Let me surf in the dark.

There's only one problem with that. If I surf in the dark, at the age of 50, I'm thrown back into the arms of the advertisers who measure my worth primarily by my age -- who, without the detailed information provided by the trackers, might write me off now that I've hit the big 5-0.

And so, on the story of Internet tracking, I must wrestle with two values I hold dear: My privacy and my pride. To top of page

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