John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Library
Your Internet experience is yours alone. For better but often for worse, websites, ads, search results, and even product prices are tailored to you specifically — but how? A vast collection of data describes you to a number of unseen organizations who use this information to shape the internet you see. This transmission of data is not readily visible, but we have the tools to bring this activity into the foreground. We will answer these questions: How does Google profile you to advertisers? How many trackers are following you around the internet? What information are these trackers transmitting, and for whom? We will demonstrate three tools to help students (and ourselves!) understand more about how the Internet really works by making visible what is usually invisible. First, we will look to Google for an example of a user ad profile, which lists known or guessed age, gender, location, and interests. These are but some of the 50+ data points Google can determine about you when serving up ads and search results. Second, we will demonstrate Ghostery and Privacy Badger, two popular browser plugins that display all the trackers (cookies) active on a given webpage, from analytics counters to advertising beacons, and gives users the option to block them. Lastly, we will demonstrate tools built into your browser: how to view the content of cookies that are tracking you and how to view all the files, both visible and not, that a webpage loads. Using these tools, students can build the skills needed to see and control the data collected about them. They will begin to see how technology is not neutral territory.