Why Do Newspapers Spy on You?

Infographics, Security & Privacy

In its broadest definition, online tracking is the practice of websites recording information about you. It’s one of the most secretive and misunderstood concepts on the internet, which makes sense when you consider the wide variety of its uses. Tracking can be used by websites directly to remember your login information and preferences, but also to monetize your surfing information for profit. The latter is intrusive and annoying, but unfortunately one of the lifelines for some websites – ones that cost a lot to run, but have a hard time getting their users to pay for content. No category exemplifies this better than digital news media.

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When doing some research (which everyone can duplicate using Freedome VPN’s own Tracker Mapper tool), we discovered that news websites easily won the questionable prize of “category of websites that track you the most”. Also keep in mind that none of this is the “good” kind of tracking, as Freedome VPN only blocks and shows you instances of third party tracking, where websites send your information to someone else (hint: it starts with A and ends with dvertisers).

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So why do news websites track you so much? There can be many reasons, but money is (as usual) right there at the top. Consumers of news might have migrated online, but unfortunately, one of their two revenue streams has not. Newspapers have two ways of making money — either by selling ads or selling subscriptions. You can probably guess which one of these wells has dried up as people have started to consume their news online.

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I can use myself as an example. I pay around 350€ a year for my print newspaper subscription. It’s a ton of money, but paying it has always struck me as sort of a fact of life. In contrast, paying for online news services has never occurred to me. This logic-defying behavior is at the heart of the problem for the newspaper business: The longer something on the internet is free, the harder it will be to make people start paying for it.

Solutions to such complex problems are rarely simple, but we could start by paying for our favorite digital news outlets. Giving support to good news organizations lets the media continue play an important role as the watchdog over those in power. When we lament on the decrease of quality in reporting, we often overlook the fact that own consumer habits have forced the news industry into a corner. As a VPN provider, we believe in everyone having the right to online privacy and are against excessive online tracking, but to be honest, things aren’t always so black and white.

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