A Fool in search of Privacy



As I watch with great interest in what can only be called the ‘Shenanigans’, taking place at the W3C Tracking Protection Working Group, my mind is drawn to Wikipedia’s description of the Fool (link)

In various tarot card games he has a unique role – (and I quote)…

  • ‘In these games, the Fool is sometimes called “the Excuse”. The tarot games are typically trick taking games; playing the Fool card excuses the player from either following suit or playing a trump card on that trick. Winning a trick containing the Fool card often yields a scoring bonus.’

You don’t have to think too hard about whose playing the Fool card. That would be the advertising industry. On a day when California just passed this bill “California AG: Post Privacy Policy….Or Else!” (link) (in short there are heavy fines for abusing privacy) I can send a VALID DNT (Do Not Track) signal to a Web server (there are over 100 million browsers in the marketplace that can do this) and without everyone being absolutely, totally, 100 percent sure this was a ‘fully informed decision on the part of the user’… the Web server can disregard it.

And the best part (the Fool Card) is that the server doesn’t have to notify the user that they have just ignored their Do Not Track signal. Obviously the credibility of the W3C Tracking Protection Working Group is now reaching an all time low.

Throw in the other recent press release by Yahoo that they do NOT intend to honor a Do Not Track signal from ANY Windows 8 device and you’re left shaking your head as to what these Ph.D’s are thinking (or should I say smoking). Cue the sound track from John McEnroe – ‘You Cannot Be Serious’.

Through their own cleverness the Do Not Track signal that a browser sends has no way of communicating with the server that it was an informed decision on the behalf of the user. So what’s the server to do? Well – they can ignore it because how can they tell if the user was really informed?

Brilliant – the Fool is vindicated and the advertising industry marches on. Mission accomplished. The card now passes to the user and they now become the Fool in search of Privacy. Alas there is no such thing.

Well done to the W3C for architecting something so incredibly flawed that not even a Fool is protected.

Posted in: #Choice, #mobile, #privacy

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