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This chapter is from the book


Web browsing isn’t a one-to-one conversation with a single web site. Instead, embedded content such as maps, images, videos, advertisements, web-analytics code, and social networking widgets immediately disclose each user’s visit to a third party when that user merely views a page in his or her web browser. Web authors and webmasters gain a great deal of value by embedding these “small snippets of code” in their web sites, such as gaining access to advertising revenue, free web-analytics reports, improved customer contact, and richer, more compelling web content. The true benefit is to the online companies, which gain a greatly increased field of view that isn’t constrained to their own properties, but instead encompasses a major swath of the Internet. As these companies innovate and field compelling new services, expect their field of view to increase further, as webmasters and web authors across the Internet embed new and better content. A key conclusion is that embedded third-party content forces the user to accept many different privacy policies from many different companies, most likely without even being aware of it. This creates a lowest common denominator effect of privacy policies; your real privacy in terms of visiting a web site is the equivalent of the worst policy of all the sites embedded there. This is a huge issue. Consider the MSNBC example earlier in the chapter. Most users might be aware that they fall under the MSNBC privacy policy, but they likely are not aware of the information being collected by the ten other companies providing embedded content, let alone the finer points of each of these companies’ privacy policies, if they even exist.

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