Privacy: Is No Not Track really about Customers having a Choice – or is it something else?
There’s an interesting article in POLITICO (What exactly does ‘do not track’ mean?) asking the question everyone is becoming more concerned with. And the answer is “maybe what you think” or “it could be what you think” or “we’ll just have to wait and see”.
Awhile ago I wrote a blog Privacy on the Internet is NOT “binary” my premise was that without offering the user a Choice you weren’t offering any real form of privacy.
As I read the Politico article i’m reminded again how a binary approach to privacy is bordering on the un-feasible. Here’s why – I open up my browser and change the Do Not Track privacy setting to 1. This (in my mind) lets every Web server know that I do not want to be tracked. You cannot store my data, you cannot resell my data, in essence I want you to respect my privacy.
That’s what the “1” means to me. But according to the article and the proposed standard it doesn’t actually mean that at all. It merely means that the various content providers should interpret what I mean by “trying to following” the current guidelines. As the Politico article points out everyone has an opinion on what the standard means.
In essence the DNT=1 setting gives the content providers/advertisers a Choice – and removes my Choice. And that’s why the devil is really in the details on this standard. If there isn’t consistency, then there will not be compliance. Without compliance there is no real enforceability (because it was open to interpretation).
I often wonder what part of “No” didn’t you understand.
Also you have to remember that this is a global standard which means other countries are going to have to comply with it (or not). Already they’re running into issues as it relates to regional privacy laws. You have to know where I am at all times to know how to resolve the local privacy laws. (That means you have to track me).
Privacy is a really big issue – on the one hand you have the user who wants and is entitled to his/her privacy. On the other hand you have the content providers who in return for a “free Web” sell access to your data. (Think of if as financial engineering). Now how do you balance the two without disrupting the entire value chain.
Well the answer is in delivering a real Choice™ – one where BOTH consumers and content providers participate equally. Until that happens you’re going have something that looks like this. (Hint – you’re the guy at the top)