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Who Owns My Machine?
If I don't own my own computer, despite having paid for it, then who does?
Answer: The companies who subsidized its low low price. To understand why they would even want to subsidize computer hardware sales, you have to understand what 'tracking' is.
Tracking is the black art of following a user online wherever that user goes and annotating which sites that user visits. This information would seem to be very important to many of the 'major players' out there. It is practiced by Microsoft, Real Networks, Macromedia, and Symantec to name just a few.
It's a very uncomfortable feeling to know that all your actions are being observed and recorded without knowing exactly how it's being done and having absolutely no clue how to stop it. The feeling gets even worse when you realize that at any time this rather 'anonymous' data can be coupled to a real live person - you - by some seemingly innocent program which asks you to register a product, fill out a form to enter a sweepstakes, and so forth. As anonymous data, this tracking output would already seem to be sufficiently interesting to major corporations that they go to great lengths to enable it and pay huge sums to acquire it. But when coupled to you personally - with your social security number, your address, phone number, etc. - it becomes deadly. Big Brother has finally arrived, albeit a bit later than George Orwell first predicted.
Tracking takes place with the help of GUIDs and cookies. The next page will discuss cookies; after that we will look at GUIDs.
Next: I Want a Cookie