Google, Facebook working to undermine Do Not Track privacy protections

Posted:
in Mac Software edited January 2014


Google and Facebook, along with other advertising and technology companies, are working to keep government discussions on "Do Not Track" regulations private so they can twist the definition of "consumer tracking" to the point of offering completely meaningless protections for users.



According to a report by the New York Times, tech companies with business models that rely upon tracking user behavior are merely paying lip service to creating an "open and transparent" process for self regulation of how they track users and allow users to opt out.



The report noted that their talk about openness "is relative," citing Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology trade association, as saying "If this process takes the form of a public discussion, industry participants will be looking over their shoulders or sitting on their hands instead of offering bold ideas for workable solutions."



Redefining Do Not Track to mean nothing



The report noted that FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz recently warned technology companies that "if companies could not create robust Do Not Track policies themselves, he would favor legislation requiring it."



The Digital Advertising Alliance representing web advertisers said they were surprised by Leibowitz's position and the concept that "Do No Track" might actually mean that they can't continue to collect information on consumers that want to opt out of being tracked by ad networks and their web cookies.



The advertising group insists that its understanding of "Do No Track" means that they can't continue to serve targeted ads at users who opt out, but they can still keep tracking those users' behaviors and collect data on them.



Google was found to be subverting the privacy settings of Safari browser on the desktop and mobile devices, which Apple has configured to opt users out of third party and advertising tracking cookies by default.



Because Apple earns its revenues almost entirely from hardware sales, it doesn't have the same motivation to track users as other browser makers and Internet service providers do. Even Apple's own iAd network gains only limited benefits from reporting user behaviors, making it easy for Apple to offer legitimate opt out options.



In contrast, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Mozilla and Microsoft have made advertising and user tracking a key linchpin of the business model behind their their browser software and online services.



Do Not (pay attention to the fact we will continue to) Track



While Google stopped the practice of subverting Safari's privacy settings after being called out on the matter, Google and other web advertisers clearly hope to return to doing just that, creating their own version of "opt out" provisions that don't really do anything to actually stop the collection of data of web users.



The report noted that Yahoo "said that it would put a Do Not Track option on its sites that would tell its network sites that a user did not want to be tracked.



"Users who turn on the Do Not Track option in their browsers and visit a Yahoo Web site will not see targeted ads, the company said, but the site will collect user data."



Mozilla, Apple and other browser makers apart from Google's Chrome, have added Do Not Track as a browser feature. Safari 5.2 in OS X Mountain Lion will make this feature easier to find (existing version bury the option in the optional Developer menu).



However, Do Not Track currently only "requests" that web servers not track the user who has turned the option on. Wikipedia notes that "websites are not legally required to comply with do not track requests, neither by law nor by broad social consensus, and therefore very few websites recognize and respect this privacy signal."



We don't need democracy, we have things all under control



The FTC's policy statements on Do Not Track have shifted lobbyists from Google and Facebook into high gear to lobby against the Obama administration on this issue.



Google has hired former New York Republican congresswoman Susan Molinari to lobby on its behalf, while Facebook has hired Greg Maurer, a former aide to House Speaker John Boehner.



California Republican Representative Mary Bono Mack stated at a Do Not Track hearing, "Before we do any possible harm to the Internet, we need to understand what harm is actually being done to consumers. Where is the public outcry for legislation? Today, I’m simply not hearing it. I haven’t gotten a single letter from anyone back home urging me to pass a privacy bill."



However, most users don't realize that everything they do on the web is being tracked by advertising networks in the first place.



[ View article on AppleInsider ]

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Comments

  • kkqd1337kkqd1337 Posts: 48member
    I think these companies should be honest and give us the option to



    1/ Have a free, but tracked/Ad targeted service



    2/ Pay for a fully private experience



    It's clear these evil boys want to make money. We either give it to them, or let them sell us and our data.
  • jmmxjmmx Posts: 340member
    Can't even spell NOT in the headline?



    That is pathetic!
  • I'm not sure what any of this has to do with Apple.



    That being said, I'm glad to see press coverage of this topic. I'm not a fan of these big interlocking databases.
  • daniel84daniel84 Posts: 113member
    Quote:

    Google, Facebook working to undermined Do No Track privacy protections



    I hate to sound pedantic but shouldn't that read "undermine" without a "d".
  • mj1970mj1970 Posts: 9,002member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kkqd1337 View Post


    It's clear these evil boys want to make money. We either give it to them, or let them sell us and our data.



    \ is it evil to want to make money?!
  • bloodshotrollin'redbloodshotrollin'red Posts: 273member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MJ1970 View Post


    \ is it evil to want to make money?!



    Not intrinsically. But some ways of making money are.
  • mj1970mj1970 Posts: 9,002member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Bloodshotrollin'red View Post


    Not intrinsically. But some ways of making money are.



    OK. Is Google's way of making money evil? If so, why?
  • cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,023member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The report noted that FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz recently warned technology companies that "if companies could not create robust Do Not Track policies themselves, he would favor legislation requiring it."



    Stop wasting time and get crackin', Jon!
  • cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,023member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MJ1970 View Post


    OK. Is Google's way of making money evil? If so, why?



    Yes, it's evil, because it undermines and threatens our freedom.

    Google is also known to disregard intellectual property laws.
  • mj1970mj1970 Posts: 9,002member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cpsro View Post


    Yes, it's evil, because it undermines and threatens our freedom.



    And how is that exactly?
  • jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kkqd1337 View Post


    I think these companies should be honest and give us the option to



    1/ Have a free, but tracked/Ad targeted service



    2/ Pay for a fully private experience



    It's clear these evil boys want to make money. We either give it to them, or let them sell us and our data.



    I have a better idea.



    There's a "do not call" registry that you can sign up for which bans telemarketers from calling you. I'd favor the same thing for the Internet. If you sign up for the registry and install a token on your computer, they're not allowed to track you AT ALL.
  • mj1970mj1970 Posts: 9,002member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    I have a better idea.



    There's a "do not call" registry that you can sign up for which bans telemarketers from calling you. I'd favor the same thing for the Internet. If you sign up for the registry and install a token on your computer, they're not allowed to track you AT ALL.



    There's an even simpler option (two actually):



    1. Never go to or user their site(s).



    2. Turn off cookies on your browser(s)...completely or just for Google and FB.



    No laws. No special tokens. Nothing. And...you can start right this minute!
  • tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 39,891member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    I have a better idea.



    There's a "do not call" registry that you can sign up for which bans telemarketers from calling you. I'd favor the same thing for the Internet. If you sign up for the registry and install a token on your computer, they're not allowed to track you AT ALL.



    I still receive calls and I've been on the list for years. There also needs to be a Do Not Text list. I get spam texts all the time. I don't have a texting plan. This trash costs me money.



    They'll still track us. Unless browsers are built specifically with this in mind or with Little Snitch-esque functionality built in to show us what's happening and allow us to choose on our own, they will always be able to track us.







    I realize this isn't exactly what we're talking about, but it's close.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MJ1970 View Post


    1. Never go to or user their site(s).



    Doesn't stop Google.



    Quote:

    2. Turn off cookies on your browser(s)...completely or just for Google and FB.



    Didn't stop them from circumventing with iFrames.
  • correctionscorrections Posts: 1,091member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MJ1970 View Post


    And how is that exactly?



    Google operates an essential monopoly over how web sites are monetized. Nobody else can compete because Google sets prices and pays both advertisers and content creators very little, destroying any real market in order to maintain its lock on how web pages are monetized.



    It's very much like Microsoft's DOS and Windows in the 90s. No competition means high profits for one company than can virtually exist above the law, while users are given no rights because they aren't even participating in the market: they're being sold to advertisers and content creators are being paid (very little).



    Apple's model is to sell users devices, and then to sell them apps and content. Not give things away with the strings of adware/spyware.



    This also explains why so much of Google's user experience is terrible. Googole isn't serving users. It's selling them. All this nonsense about openness and freedom is equivalent to claiming that communism is about worker's rights.



    In reality, all ideological systems that subvert choice and freedom to efficiently use people to sustain themselves are neither free nor open. They just paint themselves as such so they can control everything and erase any competitive threats that would unravel their core.



    The fact that Republicans are so dead set against the US Republic standing up for individual rights and freedom is also puzzling, but I guess the anti-science party will do anything that pays it enough money.
  • mj1970mj1970 Posts: 9,002member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    I still receive calls and I've been on the list for years. There also needs to be a Do Not Text list. I get spam texts all the time. I don't have a texting plan. This trash costs me money.



    They'll still track us. Unless browsers are built specifically with this in mind or with Little Snitch-esque functionality built in to show us what's happening and allow us to choose on our own, they will always be able to track us.







    I realize this isn't exactly what we're talking about, but it's close.







    Doesn't stop Google.







    Didn't stop them from circumventing with iFrames.



    So stop going to sites that use those. Plus you can still block cookies.
  • mj1970mj1970 Posts: 9,002member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Corrections View Post


    Google operates an essential monopoly over how web sites are monetized.



    No.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Corrections View Post


    No competition means high profits for one company than can virtually exist above the law, while users are given no rights because they aren't even participating in the market: they're being sold to advertisers and content creators are being paid (very little).



    What "rights" are you speaking of here?







    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Corrections View Post


    Apple's model is to sell users devices, and then to sell them apps and content. Not give things away with the strings of adware/spyware.



    This also explains why so much of Google's user experience is terrible. Googole isn't serving users. It's selling them. All this nonsense about openness and freedom is equivalent to claiming that communism is about worker's rights.



    In reality, all ideological systems that subvert choice and freedom to efficiently use people to sustain themselves are neither free nor open. They just paint themselves as such so they can control everything and erase any competitive threats that would unravel their core.



    The fact that Republicans are so dead set against the US Republic standing up for individual rights and freedom is also puzzling, but I guess the anti-science party will do anything that pays it enough money.



    How does any of this add up to Google or FB "undermining and threatening our freedom"?



    No one forces you to use Google. No one forces you to use FB. No one is stopping you from blocking all cookies.
  • macrrmacrr Posts: 488member
    "Google and Facebook, along with other advertising and technology companies, are working to keep government discussions on "Do Not Track" regulations private so they can twist the definition of "consumer tracking" to the point of offering completely meaningless protections for users. "





    Oh. like AT&T twists the definition of bandwidth to suit their needs. sure. why not? There's plenty of suckers that will buy into it.
  • cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,023member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MJ1970 View Post


    And how is that exactly?



    Oh, you want to know exactly! Well, I can give you some direction, but because companies like Google are so secretive about their activities, you're going to have to use a little imagination, too.



    If you think you're being tracked, it changes your behavior -- you're not free.

    If you're unable to see the world (the Internet in this case) "as it is", you're not free.



    If you think "anonymously" collected data can not be converted to personally identifiable data just by putting 2+2 together, then you're ignorant.



    Check out https://panopticlick.eff.org/ to see how unique your browser is. This browser fingerprint can be added to your location (from your IP address) and the sites you visit, to very quickly identify you uniquely.



    Just as corporate security may be most easily breached through a social engineering approach, the weakest link in the supposed anonymous and secure data collection performed by Google et al. may be its employees.
  • tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 39,891member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MJ1970 View Post


    So stop going to sites that use those. Plus you can still block cookies.



    I already said that's not possible.
  • mj1970mj1970 Posts: 9,002member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cpsro View Post


    Oh, you want to know exactly! Well, I can give you some direction, but because companies like Google are so secretive about their activities, you're going to have to use a little imagination, too.



    If you think you're being tracked, it changes your behavior -- you're not free.



    Then don't use their websites. Turn off cookies. Stop using your browser.



    You have the freedom to do all of that. Right now.
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