Do Not Track: Do We Need It?

Privacy advocates state that there should be a “Do Not Track” system, that forbids the collection of certain information and allows a user to option out of any methods of  tracking. There are two sides to every argument with legitimate concerns that people with different world views prioritize to differing degrees. At first glance, one may approve for the need of FTC mandating internet. For some, it feels like a violation to be treated as a mere object of commerce others worry that data about their interests will be used to discriminate wrongly against them or to exclude them from information and opportunities they should enjoy. Those who argue we do not need the DNT system believe excess customization of the Web experience may structure society. There is a nice thought  that as a nation our, privacy rights would be restored, however we cannot forget how many loopholes, contracts, network service providers benefits will come about a DNT law. The ultimate question is  what is  privacy?” Everyone has their own take on “privacy,” all we can do is be smart about how and who we provide our information to, take responsibility and control, that’s the closest to freedom  and privacy we can get, without the need of a DNT system.

DNT is not needed in terms of businesses and advertising, Internet tracking has many advantages, including allowing businesses and advertisers to convey more convenient and relevant advertising, services and cost savings to Internet users, however if ad networks sold personal and contact info, it would undercut its advertising business and its own profitability, however they can still trade the information. Most websites such as Facebook, Yahoo, MSN and thousands of blogs, news sites, and comment boards use advertising to support what they do, using cookies to track one’s Internet usage. Google for example, spends millions and millions of dollars on free services like its search engine, Gmail, mapping tools, Google Groups and more where the ultimate result is  personalized advertising.

Marketers will pay more to reach you if you are likely to use their products  in  the business of online advertising the model code is to sell space to advertisers—giving them access to people based on their demographics and interests.

A working group of industry representatives, advertisers, online businesses and privacy advocates  known as The W3C Tracking Protection Working Group, have been working for two years to expand an agreed upon policy and procedure for the need of a DNT system, but have been unable to reach any conclusion. 2012  Eric Wheeler  “Do Not Track”  is Poised to Kill Online Growth, argues the rumors ran that the DNT would be in action starting in the year 2013 there were no specifics as to who and what this DNT system would represent and “poison.” Wheeler argues that it would be so effective,

That it should strike fear into the hearts of every company that does business online — particularly startups, but also the Googles and Facebooks of the world.

According to the article,

The FTC was likely to go beyond the boundaries of privacy and easily opt out of receiving any such market ads including ones from companies and ad networks. Any allied company would cease to collect anonymous user data or coerce browsers to prevent tracking by default, this statement may sound beneficial.

Wheeler says,

The practical implications of such regulations would be devastating — not just for advertisers and the online publishers who depend on their money, but for the technology industry and economy as a whole.

Wheeler implies that consumers themselves would end up suffering to a need for the DNT System. The gain of  “privacy”  would be at the cost of online subscription fees, less interesting and innovative online experiences, and less relevant advertising. The results to DNT would lead  to a confusing, overboard, opt-in mechanisms on every Website visited. As Wheeler states,

We are headed for what feels like an anti-Internet, not a privacy movement.

The article by Jim Harper,  ‘It’s a Modern Trade: Web Users Get as Much as They Get as Much as They Give’ starts with

Many people are concerned and dismayed—even shocked—when they learn that “their” data are fuel for the World Wide Web.

Harper  is not so much taken aback by the FTC wanting to mandate the need for DNT, but rather says that society should stop being such cry babies and learn to better control our information. Harper does not agree with tracking one’s information, but he doesn’t agree with FTC wanting to mandate the need for DNT either.

Rather than indulging the natural reaction to say “stop,” people should get smart and learn how to control personal information. Every visit to a website sends information out before it pulls information in. And the information Web surfers send out can be revealing.

All this brings back information from one of the readings done in class titled, “NSA Prism program taps into the user data of Apple, Google and others.” The NSA obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other U.S. internet giants, this access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism. Prism allows officials to collect material such as search history, content of emails, file transfers and live chats.

PRISM is an easier method of  extensive, in-depth surveillance of live communications and stored information.

Prism according to the law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, Americans whose communications include people outside the US and also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US to be  collected without warrants. The new tracking method  PRISM emphasizes a need for DNT, creating more fears into people of their information being tracked to the point where apparently it can be collected without the use of a warrant.

In the end, one is responsible for their privacy and the actions they take upon it. Whether one agrees or disagrees  with  the need of the FTC mandating a  DNT system is an individual decision. Excess customization of the Web experience may structure  society. For those who seek a need for DNT, there are services and behaviors that can be avoided to not be tracked within one’s own terms. Once can make the effort in taking responsibility and control of the information they choose to share and post. Such methods include paying for security devices for network and online services, using a PO box and other such behaviors that can limit  information from being gathered.  Resisting the need for the DNT System, allows for one to be independent, in control of their information, allowing individuals to retain their personal liberties. 




Week 9 News Digest

  1. PRISM Oct.16, 2014

Prism is a top-secret $20 million a year NSA surveillance program, offering the agency access to information on its targets from the servers of some of the USA’s biggest technology companies: Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, AOL, PalTalk and Yahoo. NSA and GCHQ a UK spy agency have been undertaking a systematic effort to undermine encryption, technology which underpins the safety and security of the internet, including email accounts, commerce, banking and official records these actions leave all internet users more vulnerable. Prism can access information “directly from the servers” of US companies a claim that the NSA denies. Other sources claim that the NSA has paid “prism providers” and even that Microsoft helped with the process. GCHQ’s stated goal is to “Master the Internet”, using a clause of a law passed in 2000 for individual warranted surveillance, known as RIPA.



 James Comey director of the FBI says, “The Internet is the most dangerous parking lot imaginable.” Which means that, online one could get mugged in ways that you never saw coming. One example to that helps explain what James Comey is referring to is when JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank, admitted that its system was looted for weeks by computer criminals who stole personal information from 83 million customers. This interview started out with what the FBI director thought of terrorism, but the conversation led to a surprising responses. All in all for the top cop of the nation it seems he does question the methods of privacy and surveillance. But check out the video the get the full details.

  1.  South Korea Tries To Ease Cyber Surveillance Fears Oct. 17,2014–finance.html

Prosecutors last month began a cyber investigation team after President Park Geun-hye spoke out against online rumors. The investigation set South Korea in confusion and fear of their government snooping among users and providers of online services. South Korea began to worry even more after a domestic chat app lost customers to a foreign rival because of the fear that prosecutors in one the world’s most wired countries might get access to online conversations. In order to ease the country Prime Minister Chung Hong-won reassured the public about online privacy, saying “the government would only seek monitoring rights in special circumstances, such an investigation of murder, human trafficking or insurrection.”

  1. Finding a Video Poker Bug Made These Guys Rich—Then Vegas Made Them Pay Oct.7,2014

So this one is kind of a cheat, but it made me remember about the movie 21, where In order to be accepted into Harvard School of Medicine, Ben Campbell will have to save $300,000 for the course. Problem is Ben can’t get this amount of money. But impressing Prof. Micky Rosa with his skills in his math he’s invited to become a member of a small group who are planning to walk out of Vegas with millions, thanks to Ben’s card counting. Ben found a glitch witch is the kind of thing gamblers dream of, casinos dread, and Nevada regulators have an entire auditing regime to prevent. In this article John Kane was hitting the jackpot due to the fact that he’d found a bug in the slot, but his luck changes when the casino’s surveillance security catches his secret.

  1. Surveillance-Proof Oct 17,2014

With new phones coming out and the latest apps to install, we still question who and what can access our privacy such as our emails, phone calls, banking info, etc. But according to Judith Miller “Technology companies take heat for making phones the government can’t tap.” So maybe buying a new phone now isn’t such a bad idea. New York and Washington law enforcement officials ranted and complained about the upgrades Google and Apple created by selling cell phones and other devices that cannot be accessed by the government and warned these major companies that such technology could jeopardize public safety.