LEGAL PERSPECTIVE: Internet tracking by Dr AbdelGadir Warsama Ghalib, Principal Legal Counsel, Bahrain

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Dr AbdelGadir Warsama Ghalib, Principal Legal Counsel, Bahrain

The issue of privacy is very annoying particularly in relation to internet usage. This is very noticeable and comes from the fact that every day there are internet connections coming from unknown persons or sources. You just see them, in bundles whenever you see your internet or while you are using the system in your official work. This kind of internet tracking becomes a fact which we are forced to manage to continue dealing with the internet. A very good example, we have the “Cookies” and the “Caches”.

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For example, in many cases, after ordering a booking from “Booking.com” or an item from “Amazon.com”, the next time you log on, suddenly you will be greeted with the message. “Hello, Mr. XWZ… with your complete name. We have recommendations for you in Hotels, Car-rentals, Books, Music, and more items. Please, click on the link and you may find what suits you or your wife or dad.” This kind of unexpected unknown message comes because you have bought any item from Amazon say a book for the first time. After that, Amazon will entice you with other ads and guides for standardized tests. However, did Amazon know? Many Web sites automatically place a cookie on the hard drive of your computer when you visit them. Nowadays, to make it acceptable, you find a clear notice that there are cookies that may tag your web site and keep on sending you messages and notices and normally they ask if you accept or not?

For general info, a “cookie” is a small file that includes an identification number and personal data such as your addresses (both e-mail and regular), phone and credit card numbers and searches you have made or advertisements you have clicked on. Some cookies track activity on a specific Web sites, others follow a user from site to site, along the Internet entire Internet trail. Indeed, a whole industry of Internet marketing firms knows how to target Web banners to individual surfers. Thus, if you visit Web sites for hotels in London you might, without your knowledge, be invisibly linked to an Internet marketing company that will automatically record this site visit in a cookie on your hard drive. Then, when you visit a travel site, in less time than it takes you to say “click”, the marketing company can automatically retrieve your cookie, realize you are interested in London, and show you banner ads for travel there. You, meanwhile, are blissfully unaware that you have a dossier in cyberspace.

Cookies can be remarkably convenient, however, are they legal? Amazon.com has patented its so-called “One-Click” system that permits a shopper to buy an item by clicking once on the button. What could be easier than that? But, at what cost? One-click buying would not be possible without cookies. Industry representatives also argue that, without the revenue from cookie-based banner ads, many Internet sites would not be free to consumers. This could be acceptable from marketing perspective, what about others, particularly legal?

Even without cookies, your computer creates a dossier about you. When you surf the Web, your computer stores a copy of the Web pages you visit in a “cache” file on your hard drive. Thus, anyone with access to your hard drive could get a good idea of your regular shopping places. Would you be concerned if your boss knew that you were visiting sites that specialized in job searches, politics, cancer, sex, or any non-job-related sites? Herein, there are certain repercussions many may not like to face.

All above shows that, the internet, is to a great degree and since inception is affecting our privacy. What to do? A big question that needs a clear answer. To be continued.

Dr. AbdelGadir Warsama Ghalib is Founder & CEO at Dr. AbdelGadir Warsama Consultancy