Privacy Online
Personal online life may not seem worth tracking when a person browse websites, store content in the cloud, and post updates to social networking sites. But the data they generate is a rich trove of information that says more about them than they even realize — and it’s a tempting treasure for marketers and law enforcement officials alike.

Battles have long raged over how third parties can access and use those personal data. However, whenever a person is online, they better assume that they already have no privacy and they should act accordingly.

Every mouse click and keystroke is tracked, logged and potentially analyzed and eventually used by Web site product managers, marketers, hackers and others. To use most services, users have to opt-in to lengthy terms and conditions that allow their data to be crunched by all sorts of actors.

The list of tracking devices is set to boom, as sensors are added to appliances, lights, locks, HVAC systems and even trash cans. Other innovations: Using Wi-Fi signals, for instance, to track movements, from where a person is driving or walking down to their heartbeat.

Retailers will use the technology to track in minute detail how folks walk around a store and reach for products. Also, facial-recognition software that can change display advertising to personalize it to a particular person. Transcription software will be so good that many businesses will soon collect mountains of phone-conversation data to mine and analyze.

And think of this: Most of us already carry around an always-on tracking device for which we usually pay good money — a smart phone. The phone is loaded up with sensors and GPS data, and will soon collect lots of health data, too.

One reason not to fret: Encryption methods are getting better at walling off at least some aspects of our digital lives. But living the reclusive life of J.D. Salinger might soon become real fiction.