So Much for Privacy? New Sites Share Every Step You Take Online


"Each day, we wrap up every hour of your browsing behavior," he said of the site, which will go public in the next few months. "It's a single-screen snapshot of what you look like based on what you look at."

At a glance, the site lets each user see where they spend their time online so that they can optimize their browsing diet: If you spend too much time watching crazy cat videos or trolling eBay, Voyurl will reflect that right back to you.

Sites Recommend Content Based on Your Browsing History

The service also compares your browsing habits to your friends' and others on the site, and can recommend content to you, based on what it thinks might interest you.

The focus is more on content -– stories, shopping sites, videos, music -– but, ultimately, Liebsohn said, the site could serve as a powerful recommendation engine and direct people to other products online (and potentially take a cut of the deal).

Similar to its rivals, wants to give users a passive way to share their Web interests with friends. But instead of assuming the entire Internet is fair game until users blacklist certain sites, takes a "whitelisting" approach.

"Certainly people don't want to share everything they read and watch," said Paul Jones, a founder of

To give people even more control of what they share, he said, his site pre-populates a safe list of about 100 mainstream sites from which users would want to share content. As users join the site, they can stick to the list, or delete and add other websites depending on their interests.

But regardless of how these sites work, some wonder whether, for the average Web surfer, they'll work at all.

Alice Marwick, a social media researcher at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, Mass., said it's possible that a sub-group of Internet users might be interested in sharing their habits for discovery and personal optimization. But the typical user may find that click-sharing services just don't jibe with how she surfs the Web.

Click-Sharing Has 'Chilling Effect' on How People Use Web, Researcher Says

Even the word "surf" implies that people peruse the Web indiscriminately, she said, without the expectation that their viewing habits will ever reflect back on them.

"In order for these sites to catch on, I think it would prompt a pretty significant change in the way people use the Internet, which I don't think will necessarily happen," she said.

While people might flock to Facebook, Foursquare, Flickr and their other social media cousins to share personal information and interests, those sites assume different Web processes from click-sharing services.

"Sites like FriendFeed, where you can aggregate Twitter, Flickr, blog posts; that's all information that you're making an explicit decision to broadcast already," she said.

Click-sharing, on the other hand, requires one upfront decision to join the site but then no other deliberation beyond that.

"I think it could have a chilling effect on the way people use the Internet," Marwick said.

Not only that, but the amount of information gathered about each person through browsing -– especially when paired with information on other social media sites -– could potentially open up users to privacy intrusions that they didn't expect.

"I think that there are some very significant privacy concerns," she said.

But Voyurl's Leibsohn said Web surfers' habits are tracked online everyday and he wants his site to show them exactly what can be uncovered about them to help them make their own decisions.

"I'm really an advocate for data awareness and data control," he said. "There should be room, and I think there is room, for a platform that creates an open dialogue around users' data and gives that back to them."

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