It’s a practice as old as time: the bait and switch. I learned all about it in my 9th grade English class–you say something shocking and outrageous or announce an incredibly good deal to get the reader’s attention, only to steer them to something unrelated. This article capitalized on the growing use (and fear) of location and other behavioral tracking as a way to generate more targeted advertising. The practice of using your location to send you ads for places in your vicinity is just the latest way for companies to attract customers. I shouldn’t be surprised that this headline got my attention, but I’m annoyed that I was played for a fool.
A spokeswoman for Ally Bank, formerly known as GMAC before the automaker’s financial unit changed its name after the TARP bailout in 2009, said that the company uses location information to help customers who visit its website find the nearest ATM. She went on to say that the site does not store the information, nor does the company use that information for any other purpose. Many apps and programs use location information, it’s getting to be a part of life. It stands to reason that surreptitious monitoring is something to be concerned about, such as when it’s law enforcement doing the tracking. A recent case before the U.S. Supreme Court presented this very question. Arguing that it violated the 4th Amendment’s warrant requirement for police to attach a GPS tracking device to monitor every movement over the course of a week or more, the petitioners case hangs on that fundamental right to be left alone. It’s hardly appropriate for the government to know (or try to know) where everyone is at all times–the founders would be appalled.
In the end, I’m thankful for the HuffPo’s bad journalism. At least they’re keeping us on our toes.