The Federal Trade Commission has proposed a new “Do Not Track” option that would allow Internet users to stop certain Websites from gathering data about them when they surf to sites. The offering could also stop targeted advertising from impacting users whenever they are on a site. The FTC wants to see the functionality built into browsers.
Although some might be excited at the possibility of maintaining privacy while surfing the Internet, the reality is, Web privacy is on the way out. While some groups continue to fight for privacy, the majority of Web users don’t seem to care about it. And their actions on social networks and elsewhere indicate that absolute Web privacy is a thing of the past. It’s unfortunate, but it’s becoming abundantly clear.
Read on to find out why any sense of privacy on the Web is an illusion.
1. The social world is growing
Social networks have been the main reason why Web privacy is on the decline. For years, people have been going to social sites, sharing personal information about themselves and uploading photos. By engaging in those activities, users are enjoying a better Web experience, but compromising their privacy each step of the way.
2. The users don’t necessarily want it
It’s becoming harder and harder for someone to make the case that the average Web user really wants to be private on the Internet. After all, if folks are sharing their interests on Facebook, telling the world where they are on Foursquare and using Facebook Connect across several other sites, it doesn’t seem that they care all that much about the possibility of privacy.
3. It’s too easy to find information anyway
In a matter of seconds, the average, savvy Google Search user can find just about anything they want about a person. Through People Search services, they can determine where a person lives, where they’re employed and a lot more. As a result, no matter how badly some folks want privacy, they need to realize that finding information about them is becoming easier by the day.
4. The revenue potential is too great
Privacy proves to be a real hindrance to companies that are trying to use the data they’ve gathered to generate revenue. After all, the more information a company knows about a user, the more effectively they can use ads or product placement to capitalize. Although firms still regularly face outcries over privacy, they realize that those complaints die down over time, and the revenue benefits of offering less privacy far outweigh those of succumbing to pressure.
Its Too Late to Turn Back the Clock on Web Privacy
5. Absolute privacy is officially dead
-total and utter anonymity-is dead. Even though some folks still use screen names and others don’t share their real names when they comment on an article, every single thing that a person does on the Web in some way indicates who they are and what they’re up to. There are certainly degrees of privacy, and some people are better at maintaining anonymity than others, but those who believe absolute privacy is alive and well on the Internet are kidding themselves.
6. It’s too difficult to go back
The Internet is always moving forward and builds upon the services and the experiences that people had once before. Considering people are enjoying using tools and sites that are making them less private, few companies (if any) would want to turn back time. At this point, consumers are showing the world how they want to use the Web. And going forward, Website owners will only build upon that with each new improvement they make. There is simply no going back.
7. The regulators care–to a point
When Google revealed that it inadvertently collected payload data as its vehicles were taking images for StreetView, some international government regulators, including Canada and the U.K., launched in-depth investigations. After analyzing the data, they then called on Google to rectify the issue. However, just as quickly as they launched their respective investigations, they closed them. The same happened with several other privacy issues originating on other prominent Websites. Regulators certainly seem to care about privacy. But exactly how much they care is debatable.
8. Three companies: Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare
Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare are arguably the biggest reasons why Web users don’t care about privacy as much as they once did. People all over the globe use the three prominent social networks to share almost every facet of their lives. And that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. For its part, Facebook has established a privacy-settings pane where users can determine how much they want to share with others. But as any Facebook user knows, most folks choose to share more than privacy advocates would like to see.
9. Major stakeholders are on different pages
There are three main stakeholders when it comes to Web privacy-Internet users, government regulators and site owners. Although they all say they care quite a bit about Web privacy, they all seem to be on different pages. Sometimes, government regulators talk about bolstering Internet privacy. Other times, it’s the user who’s worried most about a privacy problem. Along the way, some site owners seem to be less apt to worry about privacy concerns until they’re forced into it. It’s an interesting dynamic. And it’s contributing to the ongoing erosion of privacy on the Web.
10. It has too much momentum
The trend toward less privacy has an immense amount of momentum. As noted, users are sharing more than ever before. The sites they’re sharing content on are heavily entrenched on the Web. At this point, it just doesn’t seem that that momentum will be slowing. It’s something that every Web user, regardless of their feelings on privacy, must accept.