dmarti is currently certified at Master level.

Name: Don Marti
Member since: 2000-04-21 19:59:46
Last Login: 2007-08-14 04:08:08

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When a site tries to violate users' common-sense expectation of privacy, it should be the system administrator's responsibility to protect the user unless the user requests otherwise. Web ad banners are a security hole.

Information wants to be $6.95.

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protects you and the users who depend on you from the evil, intrusive tracking of doubleclick.net.

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Surfacing, not hiding, the creepy?

Let's look at the scorecard for the surveillance marketing game. The mainstream coverage would choose up sides like so:

  • Advertisers (brand and direct reponse)
  • Adtech vendors
  • Ad-supported sites
  • Authors
  • Users
  • Platform vendors

vs.

  • Elitist Internet greybeards
  • Privacy hackers
  • Unaccountable Eurocrats
  • Fraud perpetrators

Not so good for the privacy side. But if you do some research, the scorecard probably actually looks like so:

  • Direct response advertisers
  • Low-value ad-supported sites
  • Adtech vendors
  • Fraud perpetrators
  • Dominant platform vendor

vs.

  • Brand advertisers
  • High-value ad-supported sites
  • Authors
  • Users
  • Elitist Internet greybeards
  • Privacy hackers
  • Unaccountable Eurocrats
  • Smaller/new platform vendors

Quite a difference. If you're a platform vendor using privacy as a selling point, how do you make the user aware of it? Most platforms try to conceal tracking. But if you're working with the creeped-out feeling instead of trying to soothe it, you need to give the user a little hint of, "Gosh, I'm glad I didn't step in that!" in the same way that a mail application shows you the count of messages in your spam folder. For example, users could get a notification when entering the range of a new wireless shopper tracker, then have the option to hush it up.

The dreaded "Do you want to accept this cookie?" dialog could even be simplified. Instead of presenting the cookie with no context, you could get...

Do you want to accept tracking by example.com? This site appears on the following lists:

  • Companies that Hate Freedom (Freedom Lovers of America)

  • Puppy Kickers List (International Puppy Lovers League)

Block this site / Block all sites covered by both of these lists / Accept tracking

The challenge is to add just enough "look how I'm protecting your privacy—aren't I a good little device?" to keep the user uneasy when he or she uses something else.

Syndicated 2014-07-19 14:07:47 from Don Marti

Opportunity in surveillance marketing consolidation?

In the surveillance marketing business, a bunch of companies that started off in different places have all ending up doing the same thing. A company that started as a 1980s dial-up online service is competing with a company that started as a 1990s web portal and both are competing with social networks and post-bro lean 21st-century whatevers. It's like sailors, merchants, and farmers all abandoning their original occupations and all headed out to pan for the same gold.

But is the surveillance marketing gold rush coming to its natural end? Are we entering the consolidation phase, at least on mobile devices? Derek Thompson: A Handful of Tech Companies Own the Vast Majority of Mobile Ads. Google, Facebook, Pandora, Twitter, and Apple have 75%, and a quarter of the pie is left for the rest.

So what happens to the losers?

As soon as you accept that your company is a loser in the surveillance marketing game, you get to stop repeating the same old Big Data jive and come up with something new. As far as I can tell, everyone on the whole Lumascape has the same Unique Selling Proposition. Which is not really the point as uniqueness goes.

Look, it's a basic marketing exercise. Lots of variants, but basically, you try to fill in something like this.

[Product] is the only [category] that [benefit] for [market] by [core competency].

Ready? Here goes.

[example.com] is the only [adtech intermediary] that [maximizes ROI] for [advertisers] by [creepy data collection and difficult math].

The "only" looks funny there, doesn't it? That is exactly as differentiated as:

[Joe Bloggs] is the only [random guy panning for gold] who [finds the most gold] by [panning for gold in this spot right here].

Boring. It's a recipe for consolidation of an industry. So losing could be the best thing that ever happened to you.

What's the alternative? Well, Microsoft seems to have part of the answer. Violet Blue writes, Second, using Android phones, I'm Google's lab rat and fighting back a continual invasiveness from a company that's really starting to freak me out.

Now we're getting somewhere. Sounds like a point of actual differentiation to me.

What if a vendor used its marketing power to amplify user feelings of unease about surveillance marketing, instead of trying to soothe them? Work with the creeped-out feeling, not agagainst it? Let's do that USP exercise again.

[Microsoft] is the only [productivity platform vendor] that [protects mental and economic integrity] for [users] by [blocking attempts to collect information about you].

That's something to work with, but it's just the start. A message without anything to back it up is as useless as the Scroogled campaign. Pointless. But if you build a security and privacy story keeping the USP in mind, within a couple of releases you've got something.

Clearly nobody in the IT industry is ready to give up getting a piece of the surveillance marketing business yet. But for whoever does first, the opportunity is waiting.

Bonus links

BOB HOFFMAN: The Dumbest People On Earth?

Tim Fernholz: Does the advertising business that built Google actually work?

Alex Kantrowitz: Ad-Tech Companies Form Group to Standardize User ID

The Tech Block: The truth about Google and evil

John Gruber: Privacy as a Competitive Advantage for Apple

BOB HOFFMAN: Misintermediation

Ricardo Bilton: Publishers’ plug-in addiction can come back to haunt them

Christof Wittig: Why mobile advertising isn’t as huge as it’s hyped to be (yet)

eaon pritchard: does culture really eat strategy for breakfast?

datacoup: What the brokers have broken: Shifting the conversation from Privacy to Control

Sam Thielman: This Is How Your Financial Data Is Being Used to Serve You Ads

MediaPost | Metrics Insider: Why Offline Data Is Key To Online Data Segmentation

MediaPost | Mobile Insider: Get This Crap Off My Phone: We Are Screwing Up The Mobile Experience

Lee Hutchinson: Op-Ed: Microsoft layoff e-mail typifies inhuman corporate insensitivity

Syndicated 2014-07-18 11:21:48 from Don Marti

You know what they put on their database marketing companies in Europe?

You know what they put on their database marketing companies in Europe?

What?

Regulation.

Goddamn.

I've seen 'em do it, man. They ------ drown 'em in that ----.

photo of conversation

Massive culture shock alert for this paper by Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius: Consent to Behavioural Targeting in European Law: What Are the Policy Implications of Insights from Behavioural Economics? (PDF) Yes, in Europe, addressing privacy problems with government regulation is actually a thing. I guess that they have a different approach to Internet regulation in general (how's that right to be forgotten thing working?).

It's different here. In the USA, it's impossible to put the words "privacy" and "regulation" in the same sentence with a straight face. You know that some Lester at the Direct Marketing Association is going to make sure that any privacy regulations turn out to be more like anti-privacy regulations. (Remember how CAN-SPAM turned out?)

Here, instead of hoping for benevolent pro-privacy Eurocrats to protect us from surveillance marketing, we have to take a private sector approach to the problem. Fortunately, the privacy interests of end users coincide with the interests of other parties.

For example, legit publishers might choose to address the audience snatching problem by putting some interesting content behind a reverse tracking wall. (Tune in with privacy tech enabled and get an interview or concert; use an out-of-the-box targeting-enabled browser, and get a privacy tutorial instead.) (This may already be the plan at the New York Times—anyone else noticed a lot of first-party ads there? If Disconnect and Privacy Badger adoption went up, the NYT would be in a good position to handle it.)

The other problem is where regulation can be actively harmful. The more complex the adtech stack between advertiser and audience, the more fraud. Some fraud is inherent in highly intermediated adtech. The win for fraud rings is that adtech fraud isn't even illegal. It's against the terms of service of the ad networks, but that's it.

If we get "tough" anti-fraud laws here, it could result in artificially low costs for adtech intermediaries, along with privacy risks for users subject to anti-fraud tracking. The good news here is that the interests of Big Copyright and Surveillance Marketing are in conflict. Making the world safe from adtech fraud makes it safe for "brand-supported piracy."

Users, brand advertisers, and content creators all have an interest in creating a non-targetable medium, one that works more like magazine ads than like spam or direct mail. Adtech intermediaries and fraud rings are the only winners from the targeting-driven race to the bottom. So it should be possible to beat them without relying on the public sector. After all, regulators, even in Europe, are likely to have more and more difficulty promising strong privacy protections, because they'll be negotiated away in secret "trade" talks with the USA.

Syndicated 2014-07-12 14:28:00 from Don Marti

Paying for privacy

Here's a survey on online privacy that addresses the question of If users value privacy so much, why won't they pay for it?

Beliefs and Behaviors: Internet Users’ Understanding of Behavioral Advertising (PDF) by Aleecia M. McDonald and Lorrie Faith Cranor. (via Frederik Borgesius)

A majority of users surveyed agree with...

Privacy is a right and it is wrong to be asked to pay to keep companies from invading my privacy

and

Companies asking me to pay for them not to collect data is extortion

It's an oversimplification to say that if users won't pay for something, they don't want it.

One might expect that participants who highly value privacy would disagree, and would think it is worth paying for privacy even if they also believe they should not have to do so, but only 5% did. Distrust of the advertising industry, or perhaps of actors on the Internet as a whole, is another reason people may not be willing to pay for online privacy with just over a majority agreeing or strongly agreeing that data will be collected even if they pay companies not to collect data.

If one side sees some action as a good in a market, but the other side sees it as just complying with a norm, then no sale. A non-Internet example was telemarketing in the USA. Before the launch of the Do Not Call registry, sales of anti-telemarketer products were low. But at launch, Do Not call got ten million phone numbers in four days.

More: Conventional wisdom on privacy

Syndicated 2014-07-09 11:42:08 from Don Marti

Optimal privacy protection?

Good paper from Henk Kox, Bas Straathof, and Gijsbert Zwart at the CPB in the Netherlands: Targeted advertising, platform competition and privacy (via Frederik Borgesius)

We find that more targeting increases competition and reduces the websites' profits, but yet in equilibrium websites choose maximum targeting as they cannot credibly commit to low targeting. [emphasis added] A privacy protection policy can be beneficial for both consumers and websites.

Read the whole thing. Good explanation of why high-value content sites are participating in ad targeting systems.

If websites could coordinate on targeting, proposition 1 suggests that they might want to agree to keep targeting to a minimum. However, we next show that individually, websites win by increasing the accuracy of targeting over that of their competitors, so that in the non- cooperative equilibrium, maximal targeting results.

But I don't buy the conclusion that web sites are forced to get creepier and creepier, and less and less profitable, in the absence of certain privacy regulations.

The missing piece here—and I know it makes the model much more complicated—is that on the real web, the "consumers" are actually people who can switch browsers or install privacy tools to adjust the level at which they are targeted.

And the web sites have more options than just "target more" or "target less". For example, another move that's available to a site is to encourage the use of anti-tracking technology. As a webmaster, you could identify the users of privacy tools and offer them some kind of bonus content, such as single-page views of long paginated articles, full interview transcripts, or a forum for submitting questions to ask in upcoming interviews. You don't have to wait for regulators to pull you out of the death spiral of creepy.

Syndicated 2014-07-07 13:34:04 from Don Marti

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