The Wall Street Journal’s New Privacy Policy Is Everything They Taught Us to Fear

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You're being watched, even by those sworn to protect you. Photo: Jed Egan, iStockphoto

The Wall Street Journal announced last night that it has "revised its website privacy policy" in order to "allow the site to connect personally identifiable information with Web browsing data without user consent." This happens far and wide across the web, as "cookies" are used to collect users' interests and browsing patterns, usually in order to better serve them ads. But it wasn't long ago that the Journal itself was frightening readers with tales of online tracking tools "so surreptitious that they essentially hack into users' machines without their knowledge." In July of 2010, the article "How to Avoid the Prying Eyes" gave advanced instructions to help Internet users "limit the snooping" before it was too late: "Visitors to almost every major website are tracked online, a Journal investigation has found." Indeed.

According to the new announcement, "the Journal’s privacy policy stated that it would obtain 'express affirmative consent' to combine personal data with 'click stream information' culled from the website," but that "combining the two types of data would 'allow us to provide customized Wall Street Journal service information to our users.'" Whatever that means.

Amid the corporate-speak is no mention of the word "cookies," but in a September 2010 article on the "bitter blacklash" against them, we learned that while online tracking is legal, it's something to be scared of, with the technological "arms race" getting so sophisticated that opting out is almost a futile gesture.

"Mobile tracking is also on the rise," the Journal reported. And now? The Wall Street Journal Digital Network's new privacy policy "also adds a disclosure that it collects mobile device IDs." If you can't beat The Machines, just admit that they've already won.

Wall Street Journal Revises Its Privacy Policy [WSJ]
'Cookies' Cause Bitter Backlash [WSJ]
How to Avoid the Prying Eyes [WSJ]