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Privacy For Sale!

            The concern about privacy on the Internet is increasingly becoming an issue of international dispute. Citizens are becoming concerned that the most intimate details of their daily lives are being monitored, searched and recorded. (www.britannica.com) 81% of Net users are concerned about threats to their privacy while online. The greatest threat to privacy comes from the construction of e-commerce alone, and not from state agents. E-commerce is structured on the copy and trade of intimate personal information and therefore, a threat to privacy on the Internet. .
             The Internets leading advertising company, DoubleClick, Inc. compiled thorough information on the browsing routine of millions of users. They accomplished this by implementing cookie files onto computer hard drives. These cookies enable Web sites and advertising networks to observe peoples on-line activities with great precision. .
             Cookies also include the search vocabulary entered as well as the articles one reads over, and the amount of time one spends looking at a particular article. Convinced that their actual identities were not being made public, consumers were pleased to accept this in exchange for the ease of navigating the web more efficiently. .
             While never really considered by most consumers, we must wonder about the advantages this knowledge can give a retailer when targeting one for a sale. Is it ethical for a retailer to target only those people who have a history of buying a certain type of product? Or should we have products we have no interest in pushed upon us simply because we once visited a web site out of curiosity? Or do we in fact have the "right to be let alone"? (Warren & Brandeis) As many would point out this alone does not constitute the "threat" that I mentioned earlier so, let me move on. .
             In November 1999 DoubleClick bought Abacus Direct, which held a database of names, addresses, and information about the offline buying habits of 90 million households compiled from the largest direct-mail catalogs and retailers in the nation.

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