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Passive data collection occur without any overt consumer interaction and generally includes capturing user preferences and usage behavior, including location data from personal mobile devices. The best-known example is the use of cookies on a user's computer to capture Internet browsing history.

Passive data collection and the sharing of this data among third parties is poorly understood by consumers and often not communicated transparently by websites and applications. Consumers have some tools at their disposal, such as "private" browsing capabilities provided in the latest version of popular Web browsers or tools that allow them to see what passive activity is being captured, but the tools are limited.