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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 Nautical Insanity ( 1190003 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @03:09PM (#28612215)

    Ads will never "explain themselves" and companies will never reveal how much information they harvest from you (outside of lengthy, dull, usage terms written in Jargon.) Either case would make users skittish, and there's too much money involved for either them or congress to want to do anything about it.

    As for medical and financial information, it's incredibly sensitive, yes, but having it tracked is incredibly convenient for both lay people and companies (if inconvenient for the IT staff who have to secure them.) Either way, these records have to be kept somewhere and somehow and be accessible in some way to people who need them (doctors and banks.)

    The only change I see possible is improvement in the browsers. If any privacy change does occur, you can bet that it will start with either Firefox, Opera, or some non-mainstream browser, and then be eventually adopted by IE. Don't expect the end-users to know how to enable any privacy features though.

  • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @03:15PM (#28612331) Homepage

    One thing that caught my attention in the summary:

    users should be able to see data collected about them

    Seems like a very valid sort of thing to want. If your company has information about me, I should be able to know what information you have. Common sense, right?

    On the other hand, if you're going to talk about something like this, don't you also have to talk about other increases in security to go along with the additional transparency? If you're going to make it increasingly easy for me to see information about me, it should go hand in hand with making it increasingly difficult for someone who is not-me to access that information about me.

    I really think it's time that we talk about improving our security models. SSL on everything would be a good start.

  • Won't work (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @03:33PM (#28612625)

    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.

    This fails in many aspects. Every ad should explain itself? How are you going to do that on something that takes up 1/6th of a normal computer screen. If you click it for more info, that kinda kills the entire point of the ad to begin with. Users should be able to see the data collected about them? Oh no theres no potential for abuse for this one. Theres no way this can be used to create a very good phishing attack especially if you have physical access to the computer. As for browsers helping enforcing user choices, how do you do that? Have a box where you check "block tracking cookies?" I'm sure theres no potential for abuse for that either. Theres no way that MS or another company will "conveniently" "mislabel" legitimate cookies as tracking cookies. Plus, this can very well lead to a ton of censorship.

  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @09:34PM (#28616677)

    No. Because that leads to a state-run economy.

    Right. Because if you're not black, you're white. There's no such thing as grey or even orange, and there's never been such a thing as a mixed-model economy. You know. Like ours. Either either fiscal anarchy or totalitarian socialism.

    Now I suppose you'll tell me that since everyone should ensure that they can defend themselves, they should not create an organization of defense specialists tasked with securing the defense of the society.

    Really, government was designed for this sole purpose.

    Really, government wasn't originally designed at all. It just happens as soon as someone gains power over another person. The first formal state occurred when someone rounded up enough people to enforce their will over a populace.

    I find it funny when libertarians accept the premise of societies banding together for mutual defense against certain overt forms of violence or deceit (e.g. murder and outright fraud) but not against others (e.g. pollution and predatory lending).

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