Suggesting a small fix to a Privacy Manifesto
24 January 2019
London Trust Media has a Privacy Manifesto up.
Many good points, but there's one small fix that could make it more useful. From the original:
- It is now the norm—even in the presence of laws clearly forbidding it—for nearly every commercial website we visit to plant tracking beacons in our devices, so our lives can be examined and exploited by companies and governments that extract personal data and manipulate our lives for their purposes. This offends our privacy and diminishes our agency.
Here's a suggested new version edited to be clearer about how browsers work.
It is now the norm—even in the presence of laws clearly forbidding it—for nearly every commercial website we visit to include tracking beacons in their pages, and for our browsers to load and run those beacons, so our lives can be examined and exploited by companies and governments that extract personal data and manipulate our lives for their purposes. When our own browsers work against our interests, this offends our privacy and diminishes our agency.
Please don't assign all the work to the site.
It's counterproductive to ask the site to be the one to bear all the costs of privacy reform. The site is the player with the least economic power and the least freedom to change. Web publishers and brands failed to protect their audience and customer data and are now, unfortunately, kind of stuck. Because third parties control the audience information that's needed in order to make ads saleable, no one web site can unilaterally switch off the data flow that makes their business model work.
On the browser side, though, it's different. Browser developers know that they can get more user satisfaction, and get users to spend more time in the browser if those users have functionality that makes them feel safer.
This stuff needs to get fixed and browsers have the motivation and skills to do it. Let's focus on productive next steps by the parties that can afford to change. The result will be a new web advertising business that works better for sites and brands, too.
Sites can't take the big step to remove tracking scripts entirely, but there are a few things that sites can do to assist with ad reform.
Fix any "turn off your ad blocker" scripts to detect ad blockers only, and not falsely alert on privacy tools.
If you maintain a privacy tool, offer to do a campaign with the site. Privacy tool users are high-quality human traffic. Free or discounted privacy tools might work as a subscription promotion. Where's the win-win?
Asking a site to walk away from money with no credible alternative is probably not going to work. Asking a site to consider next steps to get out of the current web advertising mess? That might.