Personal Info Is Up For Grabs With New Online Tracking System

Personal Info Is Up For Grabs With New Online Tracking System

Online tracking company RapLeaf Inc. compiles personal data about internet users in order to better personalize ads displayed on their screen. This data includes not only interests and political leanings, but full names and email addresses. Well.

RapLeaf Is The First To Gather Real Names

Companies already exist that track users in order to gather information about online activity that could lead to more effective advertising, but they usually stop short of connecting an online presence with a real name and contact information. RapLeaf distinguishes itself as a company willing to overstep those boundaries and acquire real names that could easily lead to more detailed information compiled from “voter-registration files, shopping histories, social-networking activities, and real estate records, among other things,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

RapLeaf Vs. The Wall Street Journal

The Journal’s account of its investigation into RapLeaf reads like a narrative of an errant child and his suspicious parent. RapLeaf says it doesn’t give real names to companies. The Journal discovers it has been transmitting personalized Facebook and MySpace ID numbers to a dozen companies. RapLeaf stops. RapLeaf claims it doesn’t  “collect or work with sensitive data on children, health or medical conditions, sexual preferences, financial account information, or religious beliefs.” The Journal points out:

RapLeaf's segments recently included a person's household income range, age range, political leaning, and gender and age of children in the household, as well as interests in topics including religion, the Bible, gambling, tobacco, adult entertainment and "get rich quick" offers.

RapLeaf then eliminates “interest in the Bible, Hispanic and Asian ethnic products, gambling, tobacco, adult entertainment, ‘get rich quick’ offers, and age and gender of children in household.” Apparently, RapLeaf only institutes its stated boundaries when someone notices they’re missing.

Tracking Occurs Through Browsing

Tracking companies often use the anonymity of their subjects as justification for why their practices aren’t intrusive, but RapLeaf—which claims to have about 1 billion email addresses stored—clearly cannot make that claim. It uses cookies installed on certain websites to gather its information…but won’t say which. Fortunately, the Journal will:

The Journal found that sites installing RapLeaf cookies included About.com, owned by the New York Times Co.; online invitation site Pingg.com; photo-sharing sites TwitPic.com and Plixi.com; movie site Flixster.com; discount site Tester-Rewards.com; and some Facebook.com and MySpace.com applications.

Remember, RapLeaf says that it won’t share or sell emails. Except when it will.

You can (theoretically) opt out of tracking at RapLeaf.com.

Tell us in the comments: Does internet tracking make for a pleasantly personalized online experience or a creepy sense of privacy invasion?

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