Why Johnny Can’t Opt Out
In light of all the ‘discussions’ over at the Tracking Protection Working Group regarding the advertising industry claims that their polices ‘really do work’ I thought it might be a good idea to search for some more empirical data by a respected university. And as luck would have it I found this: Why Johnny Can’t Opt Out: A Usability Evaluation of Tools to Limit Online Behavioral Advertising – revised May 10th 2012, so it’s fresh off the press.
We found serious usability flaws in all nine tools evaluated. Our results suggest that the current approach for advertising industry self-regulation through opt-out mechanisms is fundamentally flawed. Users’ expectations and abilities are not supported by existing approaches that limit OBA by selecting particular companies or specifying tracking mechanisms to block. There are significant challenges in providing easy-to-use tools that give users meaningful control without interfering with their use of the web. Even with additional education and better user interfaces, it is not clear whether users are capable of making meaningful choices about trackers.
Oh dear, another black eye for self regulation. For it to be meaningful a solution it has to be fundamentally ‘sound’ vs flawed. Is a solution possible? – Yes. Microsoft wrote a great paper on how it could be achieved – see my previous blog
Something will have to be done about the lack of privacy on the Web. All that remains is the ‘How’. It’s obvious that current approaches like DNT with their all or nothing ‘binary’ approach will not satisfy the ad industry anymore than their own style of self regulated ‘opt-out’ cookies.
Lets see who gets serious first, before the regulators get called in.