Privacy on the Internet is NOT “binary”



I’m going to start this blog post by quoting the definition of privacy from Wikipedia. I’ve highlighted 4 key words.

Privacy (from Latin: privatus “separated from the rest, deprived of something, esp. office, participation in the government”, from privo “to deprive”) is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively. The boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures and individuals, but share basic common themes.

When something is private to a person, it usually means there is something within them that is considered inherently special or personally sensitive. The degree to which private information is exposed therefore depends on how the public will receive this information, which differs between places and over time. Privacy partially intersects security, including for instance the concepts of appropriate use, as well as protection, of information.

In summary:

  • Privacy is selective: I want to be able to share “selective” information
  • Privacy is personal: Everybody assigns a value to their personal information
  • Privacy is location & time sensitive: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas
  • Privacy is valuable: My information needs to be encrypted and under my control


One of the current efforts underway on the Internet to increase privacy levels is something called the “Do Not Track” header (website). Here’s how it works:

  • You enable your browser (via a menu) to send a message to a Web server that says do not track me

Here’s what the Web server sees, a header:

  • HTTP_DNT=”1″

That’s it. Your privacy is “now binary”. 1 means don’t track me, & the absence of the header means track me. By the way there’s no support for this feature in any of the current Mobile browsers.

So how does this align with the Wikipedia definition. In short it doesn’t. By reducing your Privacy to a “black & white” (1 or a Zero) you lose any ability at selectivity. You remove the personal aspect, and device location is ignored.

Do Not Track is a start – but it’s far from complete. Any Privacy solution will HAVE to include the ability to control who sees what aspect of my information, and when and where they can see that.

That’s why when we built our 3P Mobile solution we included all of these attributes, and we built them directly into the browser. See more at To see screen shots of this running on Android and iPhone click here

Posted in: #mobile, #webperf, Performance, Privacy

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