Home > Awareness, Data Protection, Privacy, Social Media > Privacy: search for it and claim it!

Privacy: search for it and claim it!

Once again, E-Crime Expert has to post a special edition on this blog due to the importance of the discussions between policymakers and advertisers with regards to profiling and targeted advertising. Tomorrow E-Crime Expert will resume to its regular topics: awareness, educational programs.

It is evident that privacy and protection of personal data becomes increasingly important and the European regulators and data protection authorities are more and more successful in drawing the line on how online advertising, targeted advertising, tracking and profiling should or could be used by the main actors of the Digital Age (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc).

On September 13, 2011 Google announced that it would provide the owners of wifi residential routers the option to remove their device from a registry that Google uses to locate cell phone users. A wifi router could broadcast the location, name and identities of the portable devices connected to that particular router, which is against the EU data protection legislation.

Not just Google but Facebook too, has taken the European data protection legislation more seriously and is trying to comply with it as it recently hired several experts on public policy, lobbyists and spokesperson for the EU Institutions, those experts coming from the highest level (White House, the EU Parliament).

Further concerns are related to how consumers’ private information and personal data are protected from these commercial activities (targeted advertising, profiling). On September 14, 2011 regulatory advisers and the advertisers’ representatives (IAB) have met in Hague (Netherlands) to discuss this issue.

For both parties there are important issues at stake: the regulators are concerned about citizens’ fundamental right to data protection, the advertisers are concerned about how important profiling and targeted advertising are for their multi-billion dollar businesses.

The advertisers came with a solution, which is a do-not-track icon on the webpage where the users could either give their consent of continuing to browse without being monitored or profiled, or continue having a better online experience, tailored on their needs, in one word: profiling!


In the above picture, can you see where that icon/button is?

Correct answer:

After a user “successfully passed” this level and identified the icon, he/she has to read a long and technical explanation where they are presented with how much the advertisers do for their users for free, rather than how much users actually do for the advertiser by providing their most valuable resource: private/personal information, which apparently seems to be the new currency of the Digital Age.

See here:

In order to opt-out, the user should read the whole information press another opt-out icon and there again the user will be asked if he/she opts out just from Yahoo, Google or Microsoft advertising or from any other advertising companies:

Due to its size and almost camouflage-like appearance, users rarely acknowledge/see/click on this icon as demonstrated in the research done by media6degrees.com/blog (here) which states:

To date, we’ve served almost a billion impressions that included the icon. People who see the icon click through to expand the overlay at a rate of less than 0.005%. The overall opt-out rate is 0.0001%. Of the people who clicked on the icon to expand it, 3% eventually choose to opt-out”.

Besides the fact that this icon is almost invisible or inefficient, there are problems with the websites who voluntarily adopt this icon on their pages. To date, only a few websites have adopted this icon (Google, Microsoft and Yahoo).

In the light of the EU Data Protection legislative framework, there are also problems because this icon does not meet the requirement to obtain the aforementioned informed consent as long as the user has to express the consent to opt-out of advertising and/or profiling rather than opting-in as is the case with this icon, because tracking and serving ads takes place unless people exercise the objection.

As could be seen, privacy and personal data are hot topics nowadays as the main actors: providers, advertisers and policymakers are deeply involved and trying to find a compromise between their multi-billion businesses and the citizens’ fundamental rights. However, fundamental rights should not be a matter of compromise. They are taking a step in the right direction, but the step isn’t big enough yet.

Any questions can be submitted to: dan@e-crimeexpert.com

Additional information can be found at: www.e-crimeexppert.com

Have you noticed that icon on your webpage before? What do you think about the current privacy “battles” of the Digital Age? Do you feel protected on the Internet? Do you mind being profiled by default?

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  1. September 20, 2011 at 10:14

    Good job on this post to show how inefficient the “Ad Choices” solution is to obtain an Internet user’s consent to browser-based online marketing.
    Thanks for pointing to this quote:
    “To date, we’ve served almost a billion impressions that included the icon. People who see the icon click through to expand the overlay at a rate of less than 0.005%. The overall opt-out rate is 0.0001%. Of the people who clicked on the icon to expand it, 3% eventually choose to opt-out”.

    • Dan Manolescu
      September 20, 2011 at 10:28

      Thank you for your comment. I am really glad you find it useful and I would like even more that users will realize soon how much they trade off for those “free services” such as email, SNS, etc.

  1. September 22, 2011 at 13:30
  2. October 28, 2011 at 09:33

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