Monday, February 27, 2012

Silicon Valley slowly evolving its standards for "do not track", tiered by entity; note CFP conference on the issue

The New York Times has an important Business Day article (Feb. 27) by Tanzina Vega, “Opt-out provision would halt some, but not all, web tracking”, link here. The “Do not track” mechanism supported by browser vendors would allow effective tracking by "first party publishers" (including most newspapers, Blogger, etc) but not by "third party publishers" like ad networks like DoubleClick and various others.

Even so, if most users were to take advantage of the provision, Internet companies fear that their business models could be seriously affected, possibly making publishing platforms like the one this blog is on much less lucrative and eventually jeopardizing our free-entry system for speakers. But other studies claim that tracking accounts for only a small fraction of Internet advertising revenues.

Tracking is, in practice, mainly a concern for people who user computers shared by others.  It can be a concern for mobile users if they fear stalking or the possibility others could know when they aren’t home.  For many adults, however, it obviously doesn’t present a problem.

Somini Sengupta has an article (link)  in today’s NYT “Scrutiny of Facebook threatens its top asset”.  It’s even a bigger issue in Europe, where providers must delete every bit of consumer data at user request. 
Of concern to all such companies are proposals (and maybe startups) to allow consumers to classify their information in “data lockers” and sell permission to use it.  There could be questions eventually about the rights to post photos that contain images of others, or to mention others who are not public figures. 

The Digital Advertising Alliance has a statement about its “Self-Regulatory Statement for Online Behavioral Advertising”, link, dating to 2009, which it says has drawn commendations from regulators.  Note the trademarked advertising icon to imply compliance with the code.

Rainey Reitman has a story for Electronic Frontier Foundation, dated Feb. 23, “White House, Google, and other advertising companies commit to supporting Do Not Track”, here.  EFF emphasizes that the debate on DNT must deal with both “technology” and “policy”.

Here is a 90-minute panel discussion by CFP Conference (Computers, Freedom and Privacy,  link),“Do Not Track, Yea or Boo”,  on YouTube, from August 2011. It’s moderated by Jim Parker, Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.

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