Internet Privacy: Are we really safe?Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 10:54 am by Umer Malik
A new version of Internet Explorer will have “Do Not Track” (DNT) enabled by default. According to DoNotTrack.us, a site maintained by two Stanford researchers, DNT is “a technology and policy proposal that enables users to opt out of tracking by websites they do not visit, including analytics services, advertising networks, and social platforms.”
By informing consumers about the data websites collect, DNT aims to empower consumers and build trust online.
In a similar vein, attendees of the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy (CFP) conference created a Social Networking User’s Bill of Rights, back in 2010. This Bill of Rights would defend 14 different rights, including a right to appeal, “Protection: Treat my data as securely as your own confidential data unless I choose to share it, and notify me if it is compromised”, to “Data minimization: Minimize the information I am required to provide and share with others.”
In February, the Obama Administration unveiled it own bill of rights that included DNT and seven protections, like transparency, accountability, and individual control. While these efforts are admirable, it is hard to see how these provisions can truly protect Internet privacy. DNT does give one the option to ensure that his or her personal information is not misused. However, it makes one think, if you need to enable DNT on a website, should you really put your trust in it in the first place? Because the opportunity is there for personal information to be misused, and if one is so concerned with his or her personal information, then the information should not be posted there.
The goal is in perspective. “Obviously, for DNT to be effective, it is also important that websites have a common understanding of what the consumer expects when their browser sends the DNT signal.” However, the trouble is, how do we effectively communicate this to all those websites? Whenever Internet privacy and personal information is talked about, one cannot leave Facebook out of the discussion. Because of the sheer size of Facebook, it would be a huge win to have that company supporting all of these privacy provisions. However, even Facebook stated, “We don’t agree with all of the proposed elements of the Bill of Rights for social-network users.” How are these rights supposed to prevail if one of the biggest companies does not fully support them? The first step is to make sure that the “internet giants” are in full support, because if they are not 100% behind protecting consumers’ personal information, then the smaller websites have no reason to either.