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Privacy Businesses United States

Four Missed Opportunities for Privacy 67

The NY Times has a blog posting on the occasion of the Internet advertising industry's release (PDF) of what it describes as tough new standards governing the collection and use of data about users' behavior. The Times' Saul Hansell describes these "new" standards as more of the same old status quo, and outlines four privacy-enhancing ideas, being discussed by Google, Yahoo, the FTC, and Congress, that the IAB has completely ignored. These principles are: every ad should explain itself; users should be able to see data collected about them; browsers should help enforce user choices about tracking; and some information (medical and financial) is simply too sensitive to track.
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Four Missed Opportunities for Privacy

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  • by log1385 ( 1199377 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @02:55PM (#28612029)
    Self-regulation is even more effective when combined with wide-spread user apathy/stupidity/unawareness.
  • by megamerican ( 1073936 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @02:58PM (#28612067)

    People now expect government to do everything for them including protection against their own stupidity.

    It would be quite simple to organize boycotts against products and companies that don't give you adequate information. However, people have forgotten that they have much more power than a beaurocrat ever will. What they get in return for their lost vigilence are corrupt politicians who sell them out and then they wonder how things went bad.

    This is just another example of "my people suffer for lack of knowledge." If you think the government will do everything for you, then you'll end up like the Obsolete Man (a great Twilight Zone episode).

  • by emocomputerjock ( 1099941 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @03:01PM (#28612097)
    I think it's been proven again and again that the only privacy available on the net is that which you go and secure for yourself. You almost have to become obsessive-compulsive fighting against cookies, scripts, and counters to protect yourself nowadays.
  • by FlyingSquidStudios ( 1031284 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @03:24PM (#28612473) Homepage
    Okay, but this is the real world, not an Ayn Rand fantasy utopia. People are not going to realize or want to use their powers as individuals. Many people are perfectly happy being sheep as long as they are in a comfy pasture with plenty of grass. Despite my personal distaste for that behavior, I still feel those people deserve the same basic human rights as I do. The only way to ensure they have those rights is to work within the system, not rebel against it. The only way you will get people to join your self-reliance revolution will be for them to suffer a hell of a lot more than they are now. I, for one, am thankful we don't live in a world that desperate yet.
  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @09:15PM (#28616525)

    People now expect government to do everything for them including protection against their own stupidity.

    I see that you're under the delusion that it's possible to not be "stupid" about every important transaction you engage in. Unfortunately, there's simply far, far, far too much information in the real world for any citizen to properly protect themselves in every transaction. You can't know everything, even in transactions where the seller isn't deliberately hiding information from you, and time is not an infinite resource.

    This is what government is good for. We need specialists that can drill down and make sure things are safe for those of us who are not experts in an area.

    We need financial regulators because the average person can't understand complex financial products. We need people to look into drug safety because the average person is not a doctor and wouldn't even know where to look to protect themselves against complications. We also need food & drug inspectors because people can't inspect factories to see that the products they ingest are safe. We need people to look into whether businesses are protecting customer's privacy because it takes too much effort to research which companies do and don't.

    We need experts to watch what we can't. That's not "stupidity." That's simple specialization of society, as advocated by Adam Smith. Information assymmetry is a fact of life, and the only way to tackle it is to put someone in charge of watching over things. Modern society is simply too complex and contradictory for word of mouth to protect against crooked dealers.

    And it does nothing if there's more market advantage to screwing the customers than treating them well. This is especially the case in a world where the only method of regulating bad players you will accept is...

    It would be quite simple to organize boycotts against products and companies that don't give you adequate information.

    No, it's not simple. If it were simple, people would do it all the time, and it would actually be effective.

    In practice, the only boycotts that seem to ever reach any critical mass of attention in the public's mind are religious-based protests, such as those against Disneyworld for "Gay Days," and even then a company that's big enough can simply shrug it off (e.g. Disney). I mean, how's that whole "let's all boycott over their one-click patent" thing going? How about boycotting the RIAA? If enough people don't know, don't care, or don't care enough about a cause not to do business with a company, then there's no market disadvantage to acting like a complete jerk.

    It's even more laughable of an idea in markets where there are only a handful of competitors that all play the game the same way, such as utility companies.

I've got a bad feeling about this.