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Advertising Privacy The Internet

5 Years Later, 'Do Not Track' System Ineffective 254

Posted by Soulskill
from the never-track-me-unless-you-feel-like-tracking-me dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from ComputerWorld: "In 2009, a few Internet privacy advocates developed an idea that was supposed to give people a way to tell websites they don't want to be monitored as they move from website to website. The mechanism, which would eventually be built into all the major browsers, was called Do Not Track. ... But today, DNT hangs by a thread, neutered by a failure among stakeholders to reach agreement. Yes, if you turn it on in your browser, it sends a signal in the form of an HTTP header to Web companies' servers. But it probably won't change what data they collect. That's because most websites either don't honor DNT — it's currently a voluntary system — or they interpret it in different ways. Another problem — perhaps the biggest — is that Web companies, ad agencies and the other stakeholders have never reached agreement on what "do not track" really means."
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5 Years Later, 'Do Not Track' System Ineffective

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  • by mozumder (178398) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @10:17AM (#47065705)

    Cookie tracking means you're getting spammed with ads you DO want, instead of the ads you don't want.

    Do-not-track only means you're going to end up with ads you hate. It's not a "do-not-advertise". It's not going to stop ads at all.

    Right now, most geeks think of advertising as bad things, because they hate the ads served to them as geeks are a horrible audience demographic. They don't know, that in the real world, people actually WANT advertising. That's why people buy things like newspapers and magazines, BECAUSE of the ads.

    Besides, it's the website that decides how they want to treat their audience, not the viewer. The only thing the viewer can/should do is to not visit the website in the first place if they feel their usage rights are violated, and right now, no one is going to miss losing an audience demographic of geeks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2014 @10:18AM (#47065709)

    You can't trust ad agencies even if it was spelled out in law. There are always parties who just don't care about anything but making money.

    If you want to not be tracked use some anonymizing technologies.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @10:26AM (#47065811) Homepage

    Another problem â" perhaps the biggest â" is that Web companies, ad agencies and the other stakeholders have never reached agreement on what "do not track" really means.

    "Do not track" is dead because the meaning is so obvious that they couldn't find a way to gut its meaning while pretending to give it lip service.

  • "A Contract" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @10:30AM (#47065845)
    "Do not track"?

    Everyone wants everything for free, and so there is advertising.

    The entire idea of "do not track" was ludicrous.

    Everyone wants their free lunches with no strings attached, but there will always be strings.
  • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @10:40AM (#47065939)

    Right now, most geeks think of advertising as bad things, because they hate the ads served to them as geeks are a horrible audience demographic. They don't know, that in the real world, people actually WANT advertising. That's why people buy things like newspapers and magazines, BECAUSE of the ads.

    No -- that's certainly not why people buy newspapers, except for those people who just want the coupon section (which is generally segregated from the rest of the paper). Who the heck buys a newspaper just for the ads?

    As for magazines, there are some which clearly seem to be able the ads -- particularly style magazines and such. Mostly it's something to allow people to drool over clothes and other luxury fashion items they can't afford (or could barely afford). But yeah -- SOME magazines seem to be bought for the ads.

    Many others, however, like ones focused on news or politics or science or literature or whatever, are definitely not about the ads. At best, they're a minor annoyance that readers put up with -- very few people buy a copy of Scientific American or The New Yorker for the ads. In some cases, like trade magazines or foodie magazines, the ads can be targeted better, so I can see how some people want that.

    In any case, the point is that "in the real world" people do NOT want advertising incessantly. How many people prefer to watch TV with advertisements thrown in (other than as a break to go to the bathroom or get a sandwich)? If everybody did, there would be little reason for technology that allows you to record and fast forward through the commercials.

    People are often happy to receive ads on their terms and when they want to receive them. They know what they're getting if they buy a newspaper for the coupon section or if they buy a magazine 90% full of photos of expensive designer clothing ads.

    But "real everyday people" are just as annoyed by pop-up ads or random ad interjections getting in their way of accomplishing tasks as anyone else is. And, let's face it, that's what MOST of the advertising on the web is. If I want to buy something on the web, I go to a freakin' merchant site and browse for things. It's not like I have to go out and buy a magazine to show me ads for designer clothes, when I can just go to the websites of the companies that sell this stuff and see the stuff directly!

    In sum -- yeah, sometimes people buy things that have ads when they want to see ads. But on the internet, people often just want to get tasks done too -- whether it's sending email via webmail or interacting on Facebook or whatever. I have NEVER EVER in my life heard a person say, "Gee -- I really love how Facebook keeps adding more ads to my newsfeed" or "I really wish that my webmail would have more pop-ups to get in my way when I'm trying to read a message."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2014 @10:44AM (#47065981)

    I use a script blocker and am testing out EFF's Privacy Badger: https://www.eff.org/privacybad... [eff.org]

    I feel pretty well about my privacy from private enterprises, and luckily I have nothing to hide from the NSA.

    The problem with not opposing the likes of the NSA while their power is still growing (because, hey... you have nothing to hide) is that in most police states the paranoia of the regime tends to grow over time and so does the set of things that are considered to justify surveillance and eventually... punishment (i.e one morning you wake up and find that the definition of 'things to hide' has changed while you were sleeping and you suddenly have things to hide after all). My grandparents survived the Third Reich. The police surveillance complex was initially justified as begin aimed at communist subversives, then social democrats, the all other political opposition, then the Jews and Catholics and by 1945 people were being dragged into the street and shot in the back of the neck for listing to the BBC or giving a pot of soup to starving Soviet POWs. Whether you are talking about government or corporate surveillance the problem is the same. The longer these tossers allowed to continue to grow their surveillance activities unopposed the harder it becomes to kick their nose out of every single corner of your existence and if you allow them to go unchallenged for too long they'll own your ass.

  • by GlennC (96879) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @10:46AM (#47066003)

    I certainly didn't figure this to work at all. I'm actually surprised that the "Do Not Call" list works as well as it does.

    As for me, ABP, NoScript, BetterPrivacy and Ghostery seem to do the job well enough

  • Re:"A Contract" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @10:47AM (#47066017) Homepage

    NO. People just don't want the web equivalent of a radio collar attached to them. They do not want to be stalked by creepy advertisers. They can advertise without stalking. Advertising survived and flourished for centuries without stalking.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @11:34AM (#47066701)

    Who the heck buys a newspaper just for the ads?

    You must be a youngun'. Back in the pre-web days there were magazines that were pretty much 100% ads. "Computer Shopper" was one. "Nuts & Volts" was 90% ads. The best part of PC Magazine was the page of tombstone ads at the very back of the magazine, often for some weird product from a garage start-up. I have bought many, many newspapers/magazines "just for the ads".

  • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @11:48AM (#47066853)
    "Please Do Not Track me, thank you."

    "What? You're still tracking me? I asked you nicely, can you not respect my wishes? Alright, it's Adblock all the way for you from now on."

    Thugs will be thugs. Might as well ask your killer not to kill you, or your rapist not to rape you.

  • Right on time! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mmell (832646) <mmell@hotmail.com> on Thursday May 22, 2014 @12:21PM (#47067227)
    And almost exactly as predicted.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2014 @12:33PM (#47067385)

    Besides, it's the website that decides how they want to treat their audience, not the viewer. The only thing the viewer can/should do is to not visit the website in the first place if they feel their usage rights are violated, and right now, no one is going to miss losing an audience demographic of geeks.

    No. Just, no.

    Go back to class and learn how HTTP works. The user (and his "agent", the designated software making requests on his behalf) are fully in control of the experience. The website presents content on an open interface, and the user, via his agent, requests it as he sees fit. If he requests the text of the page, but not the images, that's his prerogative, not the site owner's. If he requests only certain images, follows only certain links, and doesn't do certain DOM manipulations via scripting, that also is the viewer's prerogative. The site owner has fuck-all to say about it.

    That's why site owners cannot win against AdBlock. HTTP was built for exactly the situation that AdBlock enforces. It's just that most site owners got used to lazy, unconfigurable user agents that didn't do what their users actually wanted. Now that some users are daring to go against that "standard", site owners are showing their true colors by becoming a bunch of whiny asshats.

    This has nothing to do with geeks, either. AdBlock is becoming my go-to tool for people that complain their "internet is slow". And once they get a glimpse of the web without ads, it's game over. Nobody wants advertising. People tolerate advertising as long as what they get in return is worth putting up with some no-skill ass-clown shouting about the product he's been hired to shill for. But advertising companies long ago stepped across that line. I have no moral qualms about wiping out advertising completely. I'm willing to do it and put up with whatever consequences there are. Advertisers are wise to not push me or those that think similarly.

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