What's worse than privacy legislation? No privacy legislation

The Internet has had 10 years to 'self regulate' on privacy. It ain't working. The time for stronger measures is now.

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"But rather than indulging the natural reaction to say 'stop,' people should get smart and learn how to control personal information. There are plenty of options and tools people can use to protect privacy—and a certain obligation to use them. Data about you are not 'yours' if you don't do anything to control them."

There's so much in that graph to pick on I don't know where to start.  Plenty of options and tools to protect your privacy? Sure, if you like your tools to be hopelessly complicated and largely ineffectual. I've been writing about Internet privacy for a dozen years and have yet to find a simple solution that works.

Your data isn't yours if you don't do anything to control it? Tell me, please, how to control the data Google collects about me that's floating out there on the InterWebs. I'm all ears. Or, for that matter, how to make the typical privacy policy comprehensible to humans who lack a law degree.

Then there's this graph:

"'Surreptitious' use of cookies is one of the weaker complaints. Cookies have been integral to Web browsing since the beginning, and their privacy consequences have been a subject of public discussion for over a decade. Cookies are a surreptitious threat to privacy the way smoking is a surreptitious threat to health. If you don't know about it, you haven't been paying attention."

Until about 1960, people thought smoking was good for you. Or at least, that's the line the tobacco companies tried to push. (Note: Of course, I wasn't alive back then, so most of my knowledge of that era comes from "Mad Men.")

We are in the Web equivalent of the early 1960s. Cookies are one of the most poorly understood concepts on the Net. Quick, what cookies are being deposited by this Web site right now? Do you even know how to find out? I didn't think so.

Harper is wary of a world where every Web site and every Web ad has to obtain your consent before it can use your information. I get that. But  instead we have a world where every consumer has to parse the legalese of every Web site and Web advertiser to find out what information they collect and what they're doing with it. And then have to go back and check to see if anything's changed. Over and over and over.

And when something does change and users don't like it -- see Facebook and its ever-shifting privacy policies -- their only option is to pack up and go home.

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