Why the proposed Do Not Track standard is going to fail – it’s all about Trust




As the saying goes “A civilized society cannot function without trust”, ergo it’s also appropriate to extend that premise to the Internet – “A civilized Internet based society cannot function without trust”.

So how do we define trust? There’s a great definition to be found on the Web – link – in short:

“Trust is a person’s willingness to accept and/or increase their vulnerability by relying on implicit or explicit information.”

So how does this all related to the proposed Do Not Track standard? Well the idea is a simple one – the user goes to his/her browser, clicks on the Menu, selects the Privacy option and then checks the box marked ‘Ask Web sites Not to Track Me”. You are now sending a message to a content provider that you are unwilling to “Trust” their behavior when it comes to sharing your data. You are reducing your vulnerability by transmit explicit information.

Now imagine you find out that even though you are sending this explicit information that the Web content provider is not only still tracking you but also sharing your data with other parties. Instantly your trust in them is diminished and the lack of value they offer you is also greatly diminished. Trust is therefore ‘Contextual’. You have relied on a Web content provider to NOT do something and they have now failed.

This is exactly where Do Not Track is heading. The very second you transmit that explicit value to a content provider and they do not honor it the whole standard instantly collapses. Ironically they cannot afford to stay in business and offer free services WITHOUT the ability to share your data.

So what does Do Not Track need in order to overcome this problem. What would help content providers ‘WANT’ to honor that setting? Well for one it needs to be marketed as a true standard where one can have ‘confidence’ in the fact that if you chose the DNT setting that you will not be tracked. Secondly it needs to be extended to support additional ‘Contextual Fields’ that the user can share with the content provider. Binary solutions (like the current standard) lack the context needed to deliver value (without breaking the rules). For DNT to truly work it needs a mechanism whereby I can share more data and increase my trust levels in return for a better experience.

This becomes the win – win we so often talk about. Right now it’s a win – lose. If I enable that Privacy setting and the content provider honors it then all 3rd parties are prevented from seeing my data. This means that only the very largest content providers survive and overnight a huge part of the ad industry is wiped out. Ergo the incentive to cheat is so ridiculously high that DNT will fail instantly. If it’s a choice between sharing data and staying in business and not sharing data and going out of business what would you do?

Do Not Track is NOT a privacy solution, it’s NOT a Trusted solution – in short it offers no value to an industry that is built on sharing your data. What we need is a solution that increases the value of my data that I’m willing to share – we call that solution Choice® 

Posted in: #Choice, #mobile, #privacy, BYOD, Choice, Context, Privacy, Quality of Experience

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