Q&A: Privacy pioneer Ray Everett

The world's first chief privacy officer has been fighting for consumer rights since most people thought spam was just for lunch. Now he's doing battle over Do Not Track.

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Everyone who’s been in the Internet privacy game a while knows Ray Everett. I first met Ray in the late 1990s when I was writing about the scourge of email spam and Everett was the co-founder of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, which was working hard to pass anti-spam legislation.

Everett was the first executive to carry the title of Chief Privacy Officer when he joined online marketing company AllAdvantage in 1999, which was the first Internet company to pay Web surfers for the use of their eyeballs. AllAdvantage succumbed to the dot com crash in 2001, but Everett has soldiered on, first as an independent privacy consultant and now as director of privacy services at Keynote Systems, a global leader in mobile and website cloud testing and monitoring.

Keynote is in the process of rolling out a Privacy Monitoring service to help Web publishers comply with Do Not Track rules, which means that once again Everett is in the thick of a raging battle over Internet privacy. I caught up with Ray recently and threw a few barbed questions at him via email. What follows is a lightly edited version of our conversation.

1. Let's start by talking about Do Not Track and where Keynote fits in.

Keynote Systems works with some of the biggest Web sites and best known brands in the world to ensure that their services are online and working smoothly. As a part of our monitoring capabilities, we can see what third-party advertisers are loaded onto Web pages as a visitor arrives on a page. Using that monitoring technology, we can investigate every ad from every ad network and determine whether they might be using tracking techniques that violate the stated privacy policy of the Web site.

2. So what are the biggest privacy challenges facing consumers today?

The biggest challenges are the myriad ways mobile and web apps are trying to make money. The industry calls this “monetization.” What that really means is how efficiently they can turn your use of a game, an app, or a visit to a Web site into revenue in their pockets.

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