The subject of online privacy appears from time to time on my iCitizenforum posts. In recent years, the concern about the level of privacy online took a sharp turn toward consumer protection, particularly tracking of online behavior done by search engine providers and businesses, and away from identity theft.
So for Web users, the recent announcement of the Obama administration’s “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” is worth examining.
The proposed effort to shield consumers from data tracking drew mixed reactions, and any kind of legislation addressing consumer concerns is not likely to surface for a while.
And chances are that when big players in the tracking game suggest they support the proposal, bills will go through a lot of lobbying-induced changes — meaning “watering down” — before they become law.
One of the most criticized flaws in the proposal is that company compliance is voluntary.
What are the chances that one of the huge trackers will volunteer to abide by the rules if its competitors will not?
Another hitch is that consumers have to “opt out” of tracking, rather than banning it and they must choose “opt in” to allow tracking.
Still, the pressure is mounting to do something about online tracking, and that is a good thing.
The headline in a Business Week article, you can find the link below, asks a salient question: “Are we the consumers or are we the product.”
Clearly, to the trackers we are the product. And the more they know about our browsing activity, the more they can sell things about us to others.
This is particularly true when talking about social networking sites — such as Facebook — and operations such as Google, both which have grown significantly in popularity and which constantly change privacy rules and make privacy settings difficult to follow.
I find myself using online searches less and less, and I terminated my Facebook account three years ago. “Terminating” your Facebook account is different and more definitive than simply closing it. But doing it is not easy.
And after each session online, I sweep my cache and cookies.
I am sure that does not help much, but it makes me feel like I have a little more control over who snoops into my life.