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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Dark Side Getting Darker- updated 3/29

3/29 Update
I love what Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Marketing Guru Seth Godin says about figuring out what's right and wrong for this new media... (see tons of incredible videos at Open Forum

Ah.... those humans are at it again. You know, the breed that invents without thought of the long term repercussions that leave the next generation with the problem of cleaning up their "bright ideas". The ones that even today think the term "green" refers to money....

This morning the NY Times has an article, The Mother of All Privacy Battles, that talks about the next possible (probable?) trend for marketers to use I.S.P. s to track every single click users make so they can present ads to meet the "passion of the moment". Of course the article talks about privacy issues but I'm betting the passionate consumers carrying their banners of "Give me more stuff or give me death" will never support an uprising to squash their needs to consume. They'll probably see the ads as a plus rather than a negative, leaving our grandchildren to file the class lawsuits that their great grandparents waged against the tobacco companies. (Oh don't get me started!)

" Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the pioneering developer of the World Wide Web, told the BBC he would switch Internet providers rather than have his usage monitored. He said:

I want to know if I look up a whole lot of books about some form of cancer that that's not going to get to my insurance company and I'm going to find my insurance premium is going to go up by 5% because they've figured I'm looking at those books.

This is just the beginning of what is becoming a serious debate. There is a strong incentive for Internet providers to sell data for companies. Eventually, cellphone companies will start to face the same choice. If there is a G.P.S. unit in your phone, it will be able to keep track of what stores you visit, among many other things. How much would Honda pay to be able to send ads to people who've been in Toyota dealerships lately?

As they have with all the other behavioral targeting systems, proponents of these new I.S.P. monitoring services, argue that the worst that will happen is people see advertising that is related to their interests. Of course, it's not so simple. There is a real risk that personal data could leak out of these systems, just like credit card numbers sometimes are revealed by online stores, by means of theft or accident.

More broadly, how comfortable are we in allowing private companies to snoop on us so long as they promise to forget all the juicy bits?"

Is that a rhetorical question in a Times article?

In any case what this means for libraries is that the pendulum continues to swing away from protection of the privacy rights we hold so dear. That means we can't take for granted that the public will support those privacy policies and maybe it is time to begin an education process (let's make it fun and interesting) about why privacy issues are important to the individual. It might well be an uphill battle but better to start now. If you wait much longer they might not "get it". We may even want to add a little civics into the mix. I heard somewhere that many schools aren't even teaching those courses anymore!

1 comment:

waltc said...

I'm all for this--but won't we first have to convince high-profile library people to stop touting the idea that privacy is old-fashioned--that libraries should make it easy for patrons to waive the privacy and user confidentiality they don't really understand, so they can get supposedly-useful new services? (In this case, the choir may need some preaching to. I've found the process nearly futile so far.)