Breaching of Privacy Bigger Concern than Relevant Ads? January 20, 2015 — by Deepthi Sampathkumar Facebook and other such Internet sites’ abilities to access items entered into the search engine is outright creepy. This attempt to make money through advertisements too often feels like a breach of privacy. My eyes scan through my Facebook news feed. Everything seems monotonous: numerous posed images, selfies and pictures of food. My attention, however, is suddenly caught by something familiar: a Hollister advertisement. It’s an image of a pink dress that seems oddly familiar. After staring at it for a few seconds, I realize that this was the dress that I had ordered online just minutes ago. In the past few months, I have seen a recurring pattern in the advertisements placed on Facebook. Not only are they relevant to my searches, but they are exactly the items I’ve searched for. Facebook and other such Internet sites’ abilities to access items entered into the search engine is outright creepy. This attempt to make money through advertisements too often feels like a breach of privacy. The advertisements displayed on each user’s page are supposed to be relevant to what that person would like. But the site’s ability to peek into our search engines raises further concerns. What else can they access? The sites’ ability to leak into one’s browser history is upsetting. If there is personal information in one’s browser history such as emails, personal messages, school documents and credit card numbers, it is rather unsettling that this information is accessible to complete strangers. This is exemplified through the case of David Barksdale, a former 27-year-old Google employee, who took advantage of his power and hacked into various teens’ accounts. In one particular incident, Barksdale “befriended” a teenager through chat and blackmailed the teen for more information about everything he had read about in her account. Although he was later fired, Barksdale breach of privacy allowed him to see information that was not permitted for his eyes; thus becoming a breach of non-fiscal property and rights. Giving these companies such liberty in retrieving personal information is a tremendous risk. For example, Facebook is able to track common websites, what people search on those websites and is able to regurgitate back onto our newsfeeds. With the pattern of websites visited and items searched up on those sites, Facebook is able to figure out more sensitive details, such as gender, address and details about family. Their ability to access nearly infinite information about us is alarming. Wrong use of this information could quickly escalate from simply viewing others’ chats to using such information to stalk or rob people and their homes. Upon reading the “terms of usage” for these sites, one will realize that these companies claim to be technically and legally well within their boundaries. But in reality, they have access to sensitive information about us that if misused could harm us in many ways. Although the companies are well within their boundaries, it’s unacceptable for them to have such critical information in the first place. These privacy-invading abilities must be halted in their tracks. On our part, we can ensure this by logging out of different social networking sites or clearing our history before searching for private matters. Although it’s a pain, it is, as of now, the best way to save ourselves these small but dangerous invasions of our privacy.