Have we reached the era where we are no longer in charge of our privacy?
One of the most popular telecommunications companies, AT&T, recently released a “supercookie”, an undeleteable cookie that tracks the web-browsing activity of its subscribers. They are using this supercookie to target their customers with ads through email or mail. AT&T explained that this supercookie cannot be affected by a browser’s privacy settings for cookies. In other words, if you hit the do-not-track button on your browser, or use private browsing, the supercookie will still be gathering all the data it needs, such as following you to links and keeping track of how much time you spend on each website.
AT&T does offer its customers the option to opt out of this program, but for a fee of $30 a month.
There is one way around paying for customer privacy while still keeping AT&T as your provider, which is to funnel web traffic through a Virtual Private Network service. This solution allows customers to avoid the deep packet inspection (supercookie), and the cost of paying for their privacy. But customers should not have to go through the trouble of finding ways to avoid tracking. Everyone has a right to their own privacy, and shouldn’t have to pay extra for it. However, whatever our views are about how privacy should be protected, we also have to deal with the fact that it isn’t. As one of our Ten Principles states, privacy requires work: we must stay informed of what practices our telecommunication companies adopt, especially when our privacy is affected.