We have the Do Not Call Registry to maintain our privacy on the telephone. Yet at this point, we have nothing like this that effectively gives us the ability to the same with regard to privacy when browsing the Web. Basically, this is why you might see many ads on sites that shouldn’t be displaying said ads. The tracking provided by the ad server, allows the advertisement to target you specifically based on previous history. Well it appears that Microsoft is wanting to put a stop to this. Enter IE9 Web Tracking Protection.
The plan, according to Microsoft
Microsoft is right that tracking can indeed, be misused and create a potentially big problem for the end user. After all, who really likes being tracked online. So Microsoft is asking to keep the discussion alive with the W3C by making the option to “opt-out” of Web tracking something that is completely doable. The idea of course, that the end user had browsers that allowed for such a feature. I suppose this is where agreeing to make this a Web standard comes in with the W3C.
The problem with the plan
The biggest problem that comes to mind is how this might affect companies like Google? Oddly after reading through all of the details on the concept of this “noble” effort, I came away feeling like this was less about privacy and more about hitting Google in the pocketbook. Think about it. Google uses Web tracking everyday. If users in droves begun easily opting out, their effective advertising would be reduced to what it was before the behavioral model was developed. Awesome for Microsoft and the end user, bad for Google and advertisers.
Do you see it? There is a clear benefit to Microsoft here even if the idea, does benefit the end users. It’s actually pretty clever. Warm up to the W3C, offer up cocoa and “let’s help folks out” line of malarkey, profit as Google takes a hit. I think it’s both sleazy and brilliant. In ultimate, the same can be said of tracking on the Web for the benefit of advertising though. Neither is any better than other.
“Someone think of the Children!” – The Simpsons (TV)
Regardless of the sleaze factor coming from either end of this, the idea is sound and presents an honestly great benefit for the end user. Privacy is important, Google has abused it for years. And this allows Microsoft to hit Google somewhere it hurts while leaving themselves largely unaffected. After all, Microsoft’s online presence is weak at best. They do best with operating systems, enterprise offerings and gaming. Those are the statistical facts.
At the end of the day, tossing Microsoft a bone here and allowing them to make “Tracking Protection Lists” a standard, will be a huge win for privacy fans. It’s just too bad that no one else is willing to realize that it will indeed, hit behavioral tracking and be default, negatively affect some advertisers. I guess the problem is that there have been abuses here, so Microsoft found the opening and is looking to fill it with a rather mixed repair. As much as I hate to admit it, Microsoft has a good point here and everyone outside of Google would be safer and better off.