The Consensual Web


As you know, we’ve been closely watching the discussions regarding the Do Not Track (DNT) initiative.  A key discussion point is about first and third parties and how a third party can become a first party once you click on a “like” button or click through to another site or use an embedded service within the primary site.  But the question arises as to whether or not the average user KNOWS that these actions change the status of first and third parties?

If we cannot determine whose site we are on, then how can we engage in a consensual relationship with the various Web content and service providers?  Here is a case in point:


My journey begins “off the Web”.  I have opted into receive emails so have given my consent to the USA ProCycling Challenge organization to contact me.  Today I opened this email and clicked on the Read More link.


As I finished reading, I see a familiar looking black bar across the top.  I look at the particular URL and realized I’m on a BlogSpot page, not a website. Who owns BlogSpot?  Google.  So now, based upon DNT definitions, Google has become the first party and has a right to capture and use my information (my context) for it’s own marketing purposes, without, in my opinion, my consent.  But according to current DNT definitions I gave my consent the moment I clicked on the link.

I had no reasonable way of knowing that by clicking that email link I’d be sharing my cycling interest with Google.  USA ProCycling’s privacy policy is very clear, “USA Pro Cycling Challenge does not sell, rent, individually post or otherwise disclose any personal information about visitors to unrelated third parties for marketing purposes.”   I did not see anything about Google when I opted in for the emails or read the privacy policy.  There is nothing in the email or on the Web page to make me aware of this change in service providers. In fact, the only reason I know is because I have a personal blog account with BlogSpot (now Blogger) and am paying attention to privacy issues such as DNT and Google’s merged privacy policy, which coincided with their “black bar” page formatting.

I know that this is not some deliberate means to hijack my information, but it highlights the problem with DNT and their definitions of first and third parties.  I never got a chance to provide my consent – or not.  Once again, I have no choice about with whom my data is being shared.

So what is the definition of “Consensual Web”?  It was good for Google, but not for me.  A good Web experience is more than just serving me relevant ads and custom-sorting my searches.  It’s about transparency and respect -and this morning, I’m not feeling very respected.

Posted in: Choice, Context, Privacy, Uncategorized

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