FE Editorial : privacy issues

Written by The Financial Express | Updated: Feb 27 2012, 09:54am hrs
In an effort to stem the rising tide of anger and discontent about their seemingly indiscriminate use of users private information, several of the biggest tech companies, including Google, Microsoft and Apple, have decided to incorporate a do not track button in their browsers. Although the industry has been resisting this move for a long timeit would, since most of the information is used to place targeted advertisements on users pages, a major revenue source for the companies such as Googlethe decision to include this button should not be seen as a complete capitulation in the face of privacy activism. There are still a lot of things that need to be ironed out, such as the placement of the button, the extent of the do-not-track feature and the companies commitment to actually stop tracking data once the button is pressed. Mozilla was the first to incorporate the button, and Microsoft soon followed suit, but users found that their data was still being tracked. This new agreement apparently gives the assurance that in nine months, when it comes into effect, the companies will actually stop tracking data once the button is pressed. Their word is all well and good, but it must be kept in mind that there isnt a legal imperative yet. Also, the new do-not-track button will not stop all web tracking. While the companies have agreed to stop using data from users browsing habits to customise ads, or for employment, credit, healthcare or insurance purposes, they can still use it for market research and product developmentthe vagueness of these terms is perhaps the best illustration of how gray the implementation of the button will be.

It is a good start towards safeguarding users privacy, but the endeavour still needs more commitment and clarity.