Be Careful, You are Being Watched Online Everyday!

South Asia has no stringent privacy and data protection laws. As we go more digital and Online Behavioural advertising (OBA) gains momentum, we have to be extra cautious about what personal information we are sharing online.

Be Careful, You are Being Watched Online Everyday!

I recently got my health check-up done at a reputed path lab for my general wellbeing. What came with my report were not only the results but a plethora of offers and advertisements with attractive health check-up packages available in the Market. And the icing on the cake was an offer for me to join a diet program to ensure that my nutrition is taken care of and the deficiencies are compensated for. Was this a mere coincidence or general marketing? Let’s find out

You are being watched

The above example is not a mere coincidence. Every day while you are on your laptop, browsing your holiday destination, paying your bills online or looking up for any information, your data is being collected and analysed. This is called Online Behavioural advertising (OBA). OBA targets individuals based on their behaviour over a period of time. It enables advertisers to deliver advertising that is more relevant to individual’s likes and interests.

Be Careful, You are Being Watched Online Everyday!

How OBA works

When you are busy reading about your areas of interests on the internet, the ad network places a cookies on your computer as it has partnered with the websites you are browsing. The cookie has a unique identifier. The ad network records the unique identifier assigned to that cookie, registers your browsing habits, correlates and analyses information and bombards you with targeted marketing material. In some cases, OBA is delivered by the website publisher itself, however nowadays website publishers are also turning to third party advertising networks to serve OBA on their behalf leading to multiple privacy issues.

 Do we need it or we don’t

The good aspect of behavioural marketing brings us the benefit of having access to all the offers that we would need to make the best decision for ourselves. This creates a win-win situation for consumer and the company. What distracts the most about this is the avalanche of telemarketing calls, emails and messages that become a part of your life without an invite. I am sure you can recall a situation when you are in an important meeting or feeding your kid and you get a call from a bank for credit card application. Do we like it? Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t, like while booking an airline ticket if you don’t clear cache, you will never get the ticket rate cheaper than what you got initially. It’s all very tricky. This gets us to a bigger question – what can we do about this?

 Turn the tide in your favour

Unfortunately South Asia has no stringent privacy and data protection laws that can help us deal with this situation head on. We are still at a very nascent stage where our countries are proposing privacy bills and contemplating on the effects of passing the same. Until then we would have to be vigilant and find out ways to ensure that this phenomenon works in our favour. Ensure that you always disable cookies and clear cache when you are browsing. Using search engines like “TOR” is also a good idea for securing your privacy online.  Bottom line – always be sure about what personal information you are sharing online, because the weakest link leading to  privacy breaches is our own negligence.