Tracking: How that trail of cookie crumbs can leave behind more than you thought

You may or may not have heard of cookies, and before we go any farther lets get everyone on the same page, we are talking computer cookies.

Cookies are teeny files that are deposited on your hard drive while you surf the Internet. A cookie definition is a text only string that gets entered into the memory of your browser. A cookie is sometimes referred to as an HTTP cookie, web cookie, or browser cookie. However, all cookies aren’t the same, in general they seem to be pretty harmless. They tend to expire quickly and actually make websites easier to use.

For example, you know those logins that remember you as you start typing in your information – that’s the cookies. Maybe creepy, but most just pass it off for the convenience factor.

That doesn’t seem too bad, a couple of sites you frequent often remembering your information, right? No, it gets personal and creepy when you throw in the word tracking.

Tracking has been defined by the Center for Democracy and Technology as “the collection and correlation of data about the Internet activities of a particular user, computer or device over time and across non-commonly branded Web sites, for any purpose other than fraud prevention or compliance with law enforcement requests.”

Long term tracking cookies, aren’t your run of the mill cookies. These cookies can actually collect a lot of information about what web sites you visit, and what you look at and do on those web pages also.

Your web browsing habits can be tracked and profiled, which can ultimately allow companies to make predictions on your “offline” purchasing habits.

So what is the problem with these “long term tracking cookies”? Companies such as advertisers or web analytic groups, may know more about you than you think they should. Not only do they have information about you, they can sell this information too.

However, there is good news: you can easily delete your cookie from your browser as often as you like. But deleting your cookie file entirely will make you start from scratch with every website you visit – there goes your convenience factor.

To protect yourself you can also opt-out of having your information used by third-party ad servers.  This site also allows you to see what and how many third parties companies are tracking you, check it out by visiting: or more recently request to be on the “Do Not Track” list. Do Not Track allows users to hide their browsing activity from advertisers.

And don’t think you are not interesting enough to be tracked, if you are on Facebook then this might be of interest to you. Facebook is once again being sued for tracking their users even after they have signed off of Facebook. This isn’t the first time Facebook has been accused of using cookies to track users after they have logged out of their account. Facebook has said they don’t track users across the Web and its cookies are used to personalize content. And for the tracking cookies, after you log out, it’s for your safety and protection. I’m not so sure about that….

With that being said, ourselves as the user need to be aware of how, where, and why our information is being used. It is definitely something to think about, whether your browsing activity is allowing companies and the government to manipulate us, the consumers, too much?  Lucky for us their are multiple privacy and advocate groups and that are out there trying to protect our privacy and push companies to be more transparent about the data they collect.


Ticketmaster and Digital Advertising Alliance

Ticketmaster it’s where you go to buy Justin Bieber tickets before they sell out, find tickets to March Madness, or maybe buy tickets for your family to the upcoming Disney on Ice. is the global event ticketing leader and one of the world’s top five eCommerce sites, with over 26 million monthly unique visitors. It’s obvious Ticketmaster knows what they are doing when it comes to selling tickets to an event, but now they are engaging in social media.

Ticketmaster is now using the Facebook Open Graph to make a social experience of events all about you – the consumer. The product is called, Ticketmaster’s Ticketing App and it’s now available on Facebook. With the application you can learn about upcoming events and purchase your tickets directly through Facebook, I mean, that is where people spend most of their time online, right? But Ticketmaster doesn’t stop at the convenience factor of being able get your tickets in one place, the new app really starts to understand you and your preferences.

One personalized feature includes recommendations to upcoming shows based on what you listen to through online music services such as Spotify, and others. Wow, cool right? It gets better- Ticketmaster’s new interactive social seat map shows people where their Facebook friends are sitting in a venue, so you can choose your seat by them or maybe just look for your crush, who know is also going to the show.  Once you purchase your ticket you can share your seat tag to your friends.

The app has already been a success for both the user and the company. The user can now purchase tickets to events based on recommendations personalized for them and also find where all their friends are sitting. The social seat map lifts engagement and traffic back to by 33 percent more than non seat-generated content. It’s a win-win all around and the app will continue to have benefits for both sides.

Digital Advertising Alliance 

The Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), is a coalition of the nation’s leading media and marketing trade associations. The DAA and its program participants have started to address consumer privacy protection, something that is very important when it comes to using big data. People want to know how, why and where their data is being used, so the DAA has created the DAA Self-Regulatory Program.

This program gives users a functional understanding of, and greater control over, the ads that are customized based on their online behavior, aka that trail of information you leave in cyberspace. This recent initiative means several things for the consumers, companies, and businesses engaged in online behavioral advertising.

For consumers, this initiative provides a basic overview of online advertising and how it works. Not only can users understand how their data is being used to target them for ads, they now have the option to opt-out from online behavioral ads served by companies participating in this approach. Finally, consumers can also file a complaint about an ad that violates the Principles. The self-regulatory program gives the consumer both transparency and choice regarding the collection and use of their web viewing data.

Companies that engage in online behavior tracking are urged to participate in the DDA program but even those that don’t join are encouraged to inform consumers about their data practices and display the advertising option icon (so people can opt out if they choose)

Opt-out Icon

Opt-out Icon

The DAA has launched a campaign utilizing three videos to inform consumers about internet based advertising and online privacy.  They are going all out with this campaign, it’s one of the largest U.S. consumer privacy campaigns ever.

Really Gets Me

In class Thursday we reviewed “Really Gets Me” and what we need to include in our projects:

  • Got to use data
  • Must use social media- we will use Facebook obv.
  • Must be an App- so we can get those permissions for data
  • 2 way street- why do I (your company) get out of it? What do they (consumer/user) get out of it?
  • Must be real(ism)- Is it realistic?


FDA Center for Tobacco

Smoking is bad. Smoking may eventually kill you. Then everyone says in unison “duh”. This is not new information – we all know smoking is not good for our health. So why are 19% of U.S. adults current cigarette smokers? Maybe it started as peer pressure, stress relief, a social event, etc. everyone’s story is different. I personally have never been a smoker so I don’t know firsthand what it’s like to have that addiction and what it would take for me to quit.

Non-smoking has begun to make a positive shift. It’s no longer “cool” to smoke, and actually a lot of people look down upon it. Heck it’s hard enough to find a public place that you are permitted to smoke in or around anymore. And smoking can be a deal breaker for a relationship or even a job.

I would love to help smokers quit smoking but I just don’t see that as a realistic goal unless they are motivated to change themselves. That is why I want the FDA to use Facebook Open Graph capabilities to prevent younger people and teens from ever starting to smoke.

Social gaming is popular- In the US alone over 100 million people play on social networks. Zynga has more than 220 million active users each month. I think the FDA can create a game that is compelling enough for it’s audience of impressionable teens to come back everyday.

To have a broader appeal I suggest that two games be developed:

Game one: Sims Social mixed with Farmville (Or something similar) This game would allow people to play out virtual lives. Here’s the catch, you have to keep your avatar healthy. So just like harvesting your crop every six hours, you have to take your person on a walk, or some other form of physical activity. There could also be a healthy food option where they have to eat so many fruit and veggies throughout the day. If you do not keep your avatar healthy and in a timely manner they will be forced to smoke a cigarette. The more cigarette they have to smoke the less points, money, purchasing power, etc they have.

Game two: A sci-fi game or virtual fighting game. This game takes on the same idea as above but when you lose a fight your character will  have to smoke a cigarette. Smoking a cigarette in this game will also have negative effects whether it slower reactions times or stamina in your next fight, point reductions, less medal’s earned, etc.

Smoking in the US has been on a slow but steady decline, maybe by utilize social gaming we can speed up that decline.








My Trip to the Lone Star State

In less than 72 hours I will be on my way to Austin, TX for the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. I heard you want to avoid the newb forehead stamp, it’s referred to as Southby by the veterans of SXSW, but newb is exactly what I am. For starters I have never been to Texas and more importantly never to a conference of this caliber.

When people ask me what exactly SXSW interactive is (aka my family members) I find it difficult to explain in a concise way. Most people know SXSW because of its music, its humble beginnings in 1987 and film– but the interactive portion is bigger and better than ever. There is overlap between music, film and interactive, not only with dates but with how they relate to each other too. The interactive and film portion of the conference bring together more than 32,000 tech-focused individuals.  I’ll admit I was naïve about SXSW interactive until about a year ago when I really started to focus on health communication and social media.

So what’s in store for me at SXSW? That’s a good question and the short answer is sleep depravation. SXSW Interactive discusses emerging and cutting-edge technologies through 5 days of panels discussion, expert. Yes that list of events is overwhelming. It took me an entire weekend to map out my schedule –I made multiple plans and overbooked just in case I change my mind, or they have a way to clone me while I’m out there.  I didn’t want to limit myself when the schedule is limitless, there are just so many freaking options.

Not only are the days jammed pack with session you also have to be on the lookout for the next big startup – both Twitter and FourSquare blew up at SXSW.  If that wasn’t enough there are scores of exciting networking events and parties, day and night. Some of the companies that are hosting events including, Mashable, Microsoft, frog design, Skype, Meebo, Razorfish, etc, (plus they are free- booze included).

I think I read the first timers guide at least 5 times already – I’m so excited/nervous and would like to avoid any epic disasters. I have packed my bag, downloaded the SXSW mobile app, created a SXsocial profile, and started following SXSW hashtags that are going to be used throughout the week on Twitter. I’m going to go ahead and say it, I’m good to go!

When I first started planning for this trip I was trying to attend as many sessions as possible and land a job. But after some prioritization my goal has changed, I hope to meet some interesting people, learn some new things, and have a good time.  To be honest, after writing this blog, I don’t feel as overwhelmed anymore, now I just can’t wait to get a glimpse of what is unfolding in the world of technology.

Other Topics to Include

I like everyone ideas on the additional four chapters. Sometimes procrastination has its advantages. Believe it or not these are the four topics I was going to think of before you all did.

1. Types of data – a explanation of different types of data, why they are important and how each type is used/can be used

2. Competition – how other companies are using this data already, good examples and bad examples of companies

3. Personalization – definitely  important to include, like Jackie said we may want to look at the difference between having the data and using the data effectively, include examples.

4. Future Technology – I agree with Ben it’s necessary to include where big data is going and what could be expected for the future.


Health Apps on Facebook

As technology continues to improve and more digital applications are being created – the healthcare industry doesn’t want to be left in the dust. Since mobile health apps generated a revenue of 718 million last year , there’s very good reason to be very dust free.  Development of health and medical applications are opening new and innovative ways for technology to improve health and healthcare (or at least they hope so). There have been several studies about the actual effectiveness of these applications but I wanted to focus on what is already being offered out there on Facebook.

Most of the apps focus on three health categories: fitness, nutrition, and mind/body. Fitness apps allow you to keep track of your work out plans, create your own workouts and share your progress with your friends through Facebook.  Of course you only share the good stuff, right: whoops, forgot to post the bag of pizza-flavored cornnuts I just inhaled! The nutrition apps help keep track of nutrition goals – such as calorie counter, nutritional information, and recipes. The mind and body apps are created to help with emotional and mental health – with apps like “mind games” designed to keep your brain active.  And then further from the standard are more alternative choices, like zen/buddha apps that provide tips for mediation and inspiration.  There are also several apps that focus on relationships- these apps are suppose to help you develop better relationships with your friends, family, and loved ones.

I think they are off to a good start, trying to see what sticks and what stinks, but for now these apps are only applicable to people motivated to improve or change their health behaviors/habits, are actively engaging with the applications, or just straight technology-lovers. It takes a lot of time and effort to remember to log-in and enter the last thing you ate in your calorie count app (cornnuts).

I did a quick search of “health” apps on my Facebook – I didn’t find any apps that would be useful to myself or even seemed legit to health in general.

When I was more specific in my search terms, such as “fitness” and “nutrition”, I still was not able to find legitimate apps that I would feel comfortable giving consent to my information. Think back to the quiz apps: aka “what disney princess you are” – probably just an app taking your information for other people to use.  Don’t know about that?  Well it’s a whole ‘nother story.

I appreciate that there is a wealth of health information within our finger tips, but I know there is still work to be done beyond these superficial apps. Preventive care is very important in having a healthy life – and I think so far they are doing a good job of promoting that with exercise, nutrition and mental health. However, I think that as technology continues to excel, more apps can be created to help people with existing medical conditions, whether it’s keeping track of their prescriptions, or managing their diabetes.