05:30 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
IoT & Insurance: How Big Data May Affect Your Privacy & Premiums
May 06, 2016
Gwenn Bezard is co-founder and research director at Aite Group, where he leads the insurance pract ...Read More>>

Langa Letter: The Web-Bug Boondoggle

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?

The answer is simple: a little common sense goes a long way. I always check the privacy policy pages of a site that asks for personal data. If the site lacks a privacy policy, or if the policy states, "personally-identifiable information may be shared with business partners," then the warning bells start to go off, and I proceed with extreme caution, if at all.

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.

If you decline the offer for additional information, and if the site's privacy policy specifically states that your personal information will be not sold, traded, or given out without your consent, than you should not be spammed. That privacy policy is a form of contract between the Web site and you, and the site must adhere to its policy or face legal repercussions.

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.

3 of 4
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Apprentice
5/16/2014 | 3:01:41 PM
Antibug software discovred
Web bug have some advantages and some disadvantages too. It helps the webmaster in order to keep the traffic records. But nowadays, technolohy is improving and everything would be possible by the use of technology in near future. gel fuel fireplaces
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
4 Trends Shaping Digital Transformation in Insurance
Insurers no longer have a choice about digital adoption if they want to remain relevant. A comprehensive enterprise-wide digital strategy is fundamental to doing business today.
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on for the week of April 24, 2016. We'll be talking with the editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week!
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.