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The Surveillance State Is Here on Amazon.Com
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I just wandered over to Takimag where I hoped to penetrate the bizarre graphics to get Pope Benedict’s analysis of the global meltdown. Alas, His Holiness has not yet spoken out on the issue beyond his indictment of materialism that came out last week. Glancing up the screen, I noticed an amazon banner ad featuring a handsome stainless steel Breville toaster. Next to the toaster was an ad for Ilan Pappe’s recent book on Palestine and a novel called The Forgotten Legion. I suddenly realized that I had perused all three items on Amazon during the past week. This means that Amazon is able to post an ad on a website and through that ad identify the reader and present him with a tailored blurb featuring items that he or she is actually interested in. I have long been irritated by the ability of google or yahoo to read an e-mail message or a search topic and then pop up in the margin sponsored ads that match key words, but this takes the intrusion to a new level. I hadn’t actually written or done anything – all I did was visit the website.

If Amazon is doing this and Taki is allowing it, I presume it must be legal, but is it ethical? Is there no privacy left? I remember when I studied Italian that there is no word in Italian for “privacy” because Italians believe that all of life is played out in public, even if that public is only one’s own family. Have we taken this too far when looking at a household appliance condemns one to an endless cycle of toaster ads popping up every time one visits the internet?

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Government Surveillance 
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  1. While I’m not acting in any official Takimag capacity here, I doubt they’ve given it much thought.

    *All* online ads work in this fashion. They set something called a “cookie” which identifies you to the ad-server, and lets it know what kinds of things you’re interested in, some basic information about your demographic qualities and location. There are further privacy invading qualities inherent in the “flash” program that provides animated graphics on many webpages. It’s all perfectly legal and above board, and people like me get paid high salaries to optimize which ad to show you, how many of a certain category of customer are likely on a given day in the next year, and how much to charge for the ad and click through rate. If you want some control over the process, there are add-ons for Firefox. The best one is called “better privacy.” Be advised though, that removing many of these cookies will also reduce the functionality of your web experience.

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