According to The Guardian, the EU is about to tighten legislation on user tracking to apply to other means than just cookies.
However, no-one reads those cookie popups or EULAs anyway and you can’t do much on the net if you don’t blindly accept them. And I mean “blindly” since even though you could read them (most of us don’t), you can assume that most users don’t have a combined law and computing degree sufficient to be able to understand the implications of them regardless.
I like to think that I understand the computing aspects of these things but I also know that new techniques are developed daily to try to leverage more revenue from the end-user and place more responsibility on them than I can keep up with (or have the mental capacity to understand).
The likes of Google, Twitter and Facebook are continually trying to capture more data about us and do so through the development of what appears to be “free” services. These services may seem nice but; as always, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. They’re making a lot more out of the combined mass of data they’re collecting on us than we get out of it – after all, they’re not charities, they’re commercial organisations.
They’re not interested in developing this stuff for your benefit; I wouldn’t expect them to, and whilst we seem to talk about how relaxed
sheep people have become about privacy online, at the same time these organisations have become that much tighter in how they share the data they have on us – individually and in aggregate form (anonymised preferably).
They give you free email or chat services, you let them spy on you so they can feed you with the right ad at the right time in the right place to milk the maximum revenue they can out of you. The algorithms are tuned to this model and they’re getting better. We’ll soon be letting them install a camera in the bedroom for the benefit of a free daily cappuccino…
So those seeking to extend existing legislation to cover alternative means of tracking which simply relies on “valid consent from the user” are part of the problem. They provide a façade of transparency where there isn’t any. They are the lawyers and computer experts who understand the scope of the possible and should be defining the law such as to make some of these techniques illegal without sufficient transparency in what data is captured, how it is used and who it will be shared with.
Ultimately, we need to be paid for the value of the data we provide to these organisations to offset what is becoming a serious discrepancy between the data-rich and the data-poor. The use of vast amounts of data by so few is increasing the imbalance between rich and poor and ultimately will be a disaster for the real economy. That intelligence organisations across the world want to make use of this data themselves and that market leaning governments are ideologically crippled to the point of inaction means we’ll not do anything about this until it becomes a real problem – yet another bloody revolution is on the horizon. To address this the law needs to change and no popup is going to help.