Are there degrees of acceptibility with being tracked?

Continuing the discussion from Firefox Dealbreakers:
(probably a bit late forking this conversation)

I guess it comes down to defining what we find acceptable.

  • Being tracked and targeted with ads.
  • Being tracked and targeted with ads by whomever we established a relationship with (e.g. Firefox’s serialized web browser, Apple’s phone, AirTags, FitBit, Tile, our ISP, etc.).

In other words, does it make it okay that the company we have a direct relationship with is the entity doing it? Is that fundamentally different from providing the same information to a third party that will do the same thing?

I think potentially the difference is the how of tracking. Is what they’re tracking directly related to the product? i.e. If instagram is keeping track of what posts I like or comment on and then suggesting things like that, that’s “okay”

However, in the process of doing that they’re trying to unique identify me by my IP address, fonts installed on my computer, what GPU the users has it starts to get creepy.

And even then with Instagram, tracking let’s say, how many seconds I look at a post but don’t actually interact with falls into the creepy category.

So I guess that’s my line. If I’m explicitly providing signals and a company is using that for advertising or to establish decisions and trends in your software that’s good. Anything outside that is bad.

(Another example here is Spotify. Spotify Wrapped is one big example of “look how we track you! Isn’t it pretty?” but because I’m essentially providing my listening history that’s not creepy)

When there is a pay-off to the tracking, I don’t mind. Like in the above Spotify-example, where mapping my musical tastes is directly returning me value in being presented with similar artists and musical styles that I might be unaware of. This makes the experience much richer and gives me a better service.

The ones I am worried about are all the shady trackers that we never see as users, but still can sell advertisers accurate info on my personal profile (age, gender, rough or precise location, my interests derived from sites visited etc.) I’m being promised a “more personalized ad-experience” but I don’t feel the industry is even close to living up to this. It’s mainly casino-ads and dating services - two services I have NEVER used.

In the U.S., depending on where you were born your birth certificate may be a public record (mine is).

And, AFAIK, although I haven’t seen one in a few years, telephone directories with our name, address, and (landline) telephone numbers are still available for free. When you add the data that is available from credit card companies, stores that use loyalty cards, and leaked from credit bureaus, etc. it paints a pretty good picture of me. Especially when you consider it is still legal in the US to sell our location data.

I’m sure I’m the outlier here, but I honestly don’t give any thought to whether or not I’m being tracked. I can tune out the ads or stop visiting the sites that use them if they get out of hand. And to be fair, I sometimes LIKE the ads. They show me things (such as artwork or gift ideas) that I might not have seen otherwise.

As for personal info, I figure most of that is available for anyone who cares to dig a little. My age and location are easily found, especially since I make my living as a content creator.

That’s not to say I don’t use appropriate caution with sensitive information, but I don’t spend any time worrying about my “privacy” either. I’ve long since decided that if I truly want that, I need to not be online in any capacity.


I think that that is just about the saddest thing I’ve heard in a long time. Seems like you’ve given up on protecting your right to a private life.

Your conclusion would mean that if companies just go on make it “normal” enough to do abnormal things they can safely get away with it, because you’ll give up on fighting it.

In essence I think that’s the core problem. Most people have decided to give up and let them have it.

I always ask: would you also be so ‘easy going’ if Google or Apple sent someone round to your house to follow you around all day, read your mail, look at your habits, drive to work with you, go shopping with you and sleep next to you?
I’m fairly sure you’d at least be a bit annoyed?

My opinion is that these companies have actually done just that: our phones are with us every moment of the day, and our online activities are tracked at every turn.

What would your reaction be once your health insurance starts raising your premium because you went to McDonalds twice last month, so might be developing a fast food addiction? Or your home insurance premium is raised because you have bought a gas barbecue? Or your local pizza restaurant refuses to take your order because your inbox shows 2 reminders for bills still to be paid?

I understand it is very difficult to escape big tech in this, but should we not at least keep asking the “why” question? Why do you “need” this? Why do you do this? Why am I not allowed to not have this done to me?

Not questioning and objecting means we legitimise this very invasive encroachment of our private living sphere.

To get back to the OP question:
I have a huge issue with tracking, not because of the ads, not at all, it’s because of the “what else can we do with this data. Who else can we sell it to?”

I want to be able to search for something and get to see objective search results, not search results that fit my “profile” or “target demographic” I would really like to be able to use social media like facebook to see funny pictures of cats, but I do not want to be faced with whatever the algorithm thinks will bring them the biggest return on investment based on my tracking profile.

I truly believe a lot of the current polarisation of society in general is due to this “you see what fits your tracking profile” If you are constantly shown what you already believe it’s very difficult to look at issues from different perspectives. And why would you, your timeline shows you “your truth”

As DPO I see many of the marketing vs privacy discussions first hand, and believe me, our voice as customers is not very loud if it were left up to commerce. Don’t think it would be heard at all if not for privacy regulation or people complaining.

And yes it is hard. But very little worth while fighting for isn’t.

I don’t love having to use Linux (though I like the OS) for most of what I do, or use a phone with Lineage OS/Calyx OS, use duckduckgo for searches, email through protonmail, and yes: read ALL the privacy statements they show me, and yes: Manually go through all the check boxes. But I do it. Why? Because I’m not quite ready to give up yet.

I hope you can at least keep some elements of your life private.


The thing is, this is directly observable by the entity you’re interacting with. For a real-world example, if you sit in a coffee shop, the people at the coffee shop could theoretically measure how long you stare at the menu board before you order. They could measure how long you sit there. Or how many times you use the bathroom. The fact that you’re patronizing their establishment gives them that information if they want it.

The thing that bothers me is when the hypothetical coffee shop determines that I go to the bathroom 3x more than the average patron, computes a “bathroom use per ounce of coffee” number based on my coffee intake, and decides to sell that info to a pharmaceutical company that promptly mails me targeted advertising for an overactive bladder condition.

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Me neither.

Not given up, just accepted reality.

I ran background checks on prospective employees in the '70s and learned how much of about us was public even then. And I know what kind of information credit bureaus collect and occasionally leak. Much/most of what some people may think is private, isn’t. It never has been.

I’ve never used FaceBook but they’ve been tracking me just the same. I don’t worry about my data in my Google Worspace account because GW is compliant with a couple of hundred standards including HIPPA and FEDRAMP. In fact Google’s paid service is probably one of the safest in the world, but I still don’t save my birth certificate or tax records online.

And despite what people may think, even with end to end encryption no one can protect my standard email.

I received a security clearance decades ago so my fingerprints may still be around if the paper hasn’t rotted, but Jeff Bezos probably knows more about me than the u.s. goverment. I’ve been buying books, food, clothes, drugs, and just about everything else I use from Amazon for at least 15 years and that should tell you all about me.

I try to protect myself from criminals by taking reasonable steps like using a password manager and making TNO backups, etc. But I don’t lose sleep because I’m seen by a security camera around 238 times a week or my local police department is installing license plate readers.

Technology makes my life easier, I was never able to refold a road map.