Do NoT Track – Cui Bono?



Cui bono

Cui Bono – or in other words, Who Benefits?

Well I’m not really sure. I’ve been doing lots and lots of research into this, and I still can’t figure out how this is going to really benefit anyone other than the programmers who stay employed to try and implement everything. 

Lets start with the definition of Privacy. There are a lot of them but for this blog let’s use the one I came up with:

“Privacy is:  My ability to control the collection, flow, and use of My personal information”.

That’s pretty simple. I want a convenient easy way to control what I share online. If someone abuses the data then I want an easy way to “un-share” that information. So lets see how DNT enables that.

After launching my browser I go to the Preferences and then the Privacy tab. There I select the check box which says “Tell Websites that I don’t wish to be tracked”. So far so good. Now what is meant to happen is that automagically every Web site I go to will start looking for this incoming message and automatically disable any tracking capability that they may be using.

Ok, lets stop right here. Can you imagine the amount of code they’ll have to wade through to check A) to see what they’re doing as it relates to tracking and then B) disable that or re-program it in the case that I haven’t actually checked the Do Not Track box in the browser. This is an incredible amount of work and as the saying goes “what’s in it for me?”

Well not a lot actually. You’ll have to spend time, money, effort to rebuild your site so that it supports this new capability. You’ll have to publish new terms of service, new privacy policies and finally make sure all of it works perfectly. And after doing all of this you may lose ad revenue because you’re no longer sharing customer information.

So lets sum all this up – spend money, and see a drop in revenue. Hmmm not what I really wanted.

However that’s only one side of the equation – what about “Me”… what’s in it for me?

Well not a lot really. You have no way to actually know whether or not you’re being tracked. There’s no change in the amount of data you’re sending – the Web site can still see everything as before. There’s no granular control over what you’re sending and no way to change any of it – or – even add to it. In short it’s a check box with little or no meaning. 

Returning to the question: Do Not Track – Cui Bono?

As far as I can tell – no one. It’s more work for the Web content provider, if they implement it could result in a loss of revenue, and it’s only a recommendation so there’s no enforcement. For the consumer there’s zero benefit. There’s no improvement to the Web experience and no way to verify if the content provider is actually honoring the browser setting.

What about an alternative approach?

For that to work you have to look at the stakeholders, and in this case there are 2. The user and the content provider. What’s needed is a simple way to share more context with the content provider so they can provide an “enhanced service”. Enhanced services drive new revenue which is something they want. The “cost” of this is “Trust”. The more I trust the more I share. The more I share the greater the potential for revenue.

So for DNT to really succeed it has to provide new revenue opportunities for the content providers who are currently trading the cost of supporting the free service by selling your data. The current approach to DNT does not do this.


Posted in: #mobile, #privacy, Identity, Personalization, Privacy

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