Remember the old saying, "if it sounds too good to be true, it
probably is"? Now, civil libertarians are warning World Wide Web
cruisers to keep that old chestnut in mind when they browse free
Once you've clicked on a free-offer outlet, you've entered the
"click stream." Marketing companies can collect data about
individual consumers without having them register or fill out an
information form. And while this supertargeted marketing can
provide prospective customers with useful information, it also
leaves room for abuse.
Currently, many marketers use only aggregate data. Information
about individuals is released only with consent, according to
marketing officials. Commercial online services, including America
Online, Prodigy, and CompuServe, offer a privacy option that tells
providers that the user does not want his or her name sold to
marketers. The Internet at large, however, offers no such option.
So, caveat emptor.