Are you a meaning-making machine ?

How your personal information becomes public on the internet Part 2

In part 2 of exploring how your actions online translate into your information being stored and used by unknown parties. Here are a few more ways. 

Cookies:  When users visit different Web sites, most of the sites deposit data about the user visit, called "cookies," on the user’s hard drive. Cookies are then used to send pieces of information by the Web server to a user's browser for purposes of identification, authentication, marketing, shopping cart information or browsing history etc. Cookies may include information such as login or registration identification, user preferences, online "shopping cart" information, and so on. The browser saves all the information, and sends it back to the Web server whenever the user returns to the Web site. The Web server may use the cookie to adapt the information, content or format that it sends to the user, or it may preserve tracking of the different pages within the site that the user accesses.
If a user uses the Internet to buy a product or download a service, the user’s details, credit card information or address are all stored in a cookie.  Cookies that are used by websites to advertise products and services are called first-party cookies.
Other cookies, called third-party cookies, transfer data about users to advertising clearinghouses which in turn shares that data with other online marketers.  Many websites have begun to utilize a new type of cookie called a "flash cookie" (sometimes also called a "supercookie") that is more persistent than a regular cookie. 

Fingerprinting: A device fingerprint is the software and hardware settings collected from a computer.  When a computer goes online, it broadcasts these details to other computers that it communicates with. These details can be collected and patched together to form a distinctive "fingerprint" for that specific device. This fingerprint is allocated an identifying number and used in the network to define that specific device to track the computer or mobile device. This is a very useful technique in tracing cyber criminals.

GPS and data capture: Many GPS and location based services companies work all the time to capture locations, draw maps and places of interest the world over thus collecting data about places and intermittently people. In the much recent case of Google Street View case, Google was fined $25,000 for obstructing an FCC investigation into whether Google violated user privacy by collecting Wi-Fi data during its Street View project. The examination involved Google capturing data from its Street View car which provided a photograph of what users were doing at the time. Google initially denied the charge, and then submitted that it was only "fragmented data," before finally confessing that full emails, URLs, and even passwords were captured and stored. Data was only taken from open networks with no security.

a               Websites, Interactive Chat and Social Networks
Domain names: Many internet users own a website for their self or their businesses by booking a Web site address or URL (Uniform Resource Locator), called the domain name.  Domain registrations are public information unless you pay an additional fee to make your domain name private through Domain Registrants and resellers. The Domain ownership is easily searched through tracking the URL’s Whois. Many people or establishments try to keep domain ownership information private for reasons of privacy.
Blogs:  Journals and blogs or newsletters where content is frequently updated to update the clients of the business or group of interested people on the business or personal apprises are called Blogs.  Depending on the blog service used to post the blog, the user’s private information may be available. Generally blog services, through their service agreements and personalized controllable setting allow the amount of information that the user may be able to make public. Comments on the blogs or newsletter can also be controlled by settings in the blog. Blogs record IP addresses and the identity of the person updating the blog or commenting on it can be fairly easily traced.
Social Networks like Facebook, Twitter: The social networks have come under a lot of flak for weak privacy since a lot of user information is available on these servers. Users on Facebook link to people (known and unknown) and share their personal data, pictures, location and details about their activities through the social site leaving quite a few personal security loopholes in the process. Recently a home was robbed in Australia because one of the family members uploaded a picture of cash at home on facebook.

 Financial Transactions and Bill Payments Online
             Online banking:  Online banking is extremely prevalent in the finance and it has moved on to mobile banking as well. Customers are able to check balances,transfer money between accounts, and track transactions online. Using online banking, customers transmit a huge amount of private and sensitive financial and personal data through online website channels. Though most online banking systems use a high degree of encryption technologies and authentication techniques, a lot of information does get stored intermittently in cookies.