Don't be suckered in by the latest security hysteria. "Web bugs" aren't the threat you fear they are.
But What If You Do Provide Data To A Site?
Some sites that use bugs (and cookies) do require that you enter personal data. What then?
Next, I make sure that any information a site requests makes sense. For example, I expect my banking site to ask for my social security number. I expect an online application for a credit card to ask about my income. I expect an E-commerce site to want my credit card number and shipping address.
But if a site is being overly invasive by asking for information beyond what's reasonable, I'll either bail out and move to another site, or provide the site with only the information I feel they need to know. For example, if I'm ordering something from an online store, then I'll freely provide my name, credit card, phone number, and shipping address. But I'll skip any irrelevant demographic questions, and if I encounter a "this field must not be left blank" message involving personal data unrelated to fulfilling the order, I'll reward the site's invasiveness by taking my business elsewhere.
What If Sites Collude To Share Data Behind Your Back?
A big part of the Web-bug fear fantasy is that once a site has somehow obtained sensitive personal information from you, it will share that info with another site.
That sounds horrible--but is it? The answer is in your pile of snail mail: We all know from our mounds of junk paper mail that many companies already share some customer data. If you buy a widget from catalog company A, you may soon get widget catalogs from companies B, C, D... because company A sold your address as a widget "prospect" to other sellers.
Many Web sites do the same thing. On an order or sign-up page, you'll often see a check box that says something to the effect of "I want to learn of other exciting offers." If you answer affirmatively, then your address can be sold or traded to other companies. But this can be done quite openly and legally; no secret Web bugging is needed.
In this regard, most reputable Web sites--which are the only ones with whom you should share sensitive personal information--are actually better about protecting your information than some paper-catalog companies. Thus, this part of the Web-bug fear fantasy mostly evaporates when you look at it closely.
5 Top Federal Initiatives For 2015As InformationWeek Government readers were busy firming up their fiscal year 2015 budgets, we asked them to rate more than 30 IT initiatives in terms of importance and current leadership focus. No surprise, among more than 30 options, security is No. 1. After that, things get less predictable.
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of April 24, 2016. We'll be talking with the InformationWeek.com editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week!