A Great Data Debate: Keep it Fluid and Future-focused
by co-[wire] stone thinkers Zach Melchiori, Neil Michel, Kevin Gamache. And a little help from me.
The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce took a hard stance in the online privacy debate last week, stating that self-regulating marketers are not doing enough to keep consumer information safe. The FTC released a 79-page report that advocates the creation of a “Do Not Track” system that would require online marketers to disclose what information they gather from users, how they use the information, how long they store it, and ultimately, provide a way for users to opt out of any tracking mechanisms.
Regulators have increased their attention towards online privacy after recent highly publicized security gaffes like Google’s WiFi data collection and what seem like weekly privacy concerns over Facebook’s ever expanding collection of personal data. The FTC notes that their main concern is the use of a user’s web history and personally identifiable information to customize a user’s experience.
The idea behind “Do Not Track” has been compared to the popular National “Do Not Call” registry. However, a similar approach to online tracking is unlikely to gain momentum since users now access the web thorough multiple computers and a variety of devices. What is more likely to occur is an expanded emphasis on the “privacy mode” capabilities of modern web browsers.
What the FTC and the Department of Commerce either fail to realize or have chosen not to publicly acknowledge is that behavior tracking in general is a benevolent movement toward the creation of higher-value, more personal and therefore relevant experiences on the web. Tracking helps users find the signal in the noise. To [wire] stone, if an 'ad' or personalized content offering actually helped you solve your problem or relieve your pain, then technology actually acted in your interest.
Two sides in the debated have emerged from the fog: 1. those who come from a cold-war "privacy and paranoia" paradigm that distrusts systems perceived to be out of our "control" (Leslie Stahl described this user as a “fuddy-duddy” when referring to privacy concerns at Facebook on Sunday’s 60 Minutes), versus 2. younger internet denizens who accept the notion that technology can enhance our lives despite the fact that we do not control it and often do not understand how it works.
The debate over online privacy is likely to continue unabated for a while as parties on both sides tout the benefits and drawbacks of online tracking. The real debate, though, should be about whether or not the value that marketers, search providers, social networks, and other intermediaries assign to tracking is outweighed by the fear of losing control of personal data. Our hope is that all parties understand the “best and highest use” of our digitized world and exploit the personalized relevancy new tracking tools and techniques are creating every day – that we not fold in response to those who prefer “shotgun” marketing approaches that we know under-serve both marketer and consumer.
Reach us directly:
Zach Melchiori -- email@example.com
Neil Michel -- neil firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Gamache -- email@example.com