A few weeks ago, I wrote about Microsoft’s decision to turn on its browser-based “do not track” feature by default, an action that the Digital Advertising Alliance opposed, threatening to boycott the setting.
Even in this age of online visibility, privacy feels like a flashpoint issue. One thing that could galvanize people is undisclosed use. Writing at MediaShift, Josh Stearns notes:
“For the most part, people have no idea the extent to which they are being followed and watched, analyzed and targeted, bought and sold. Now, more than ever, we need a national digital and data literacy effort on the scale of the anti-Big Tobacco campaign to address the escalating privacy and security issues facing citizens and their data.”
It remains unclear if companies are paying more than lip service to the ideas behind privacy and meaningful disclosure. Stearns quotes Verizon marketing executive Bill Wiggins, who told an industry gathering:
"We're able to view just everything that they do. And that's really where data is going today. Data is the new oil."
In his post, Stearns suggests that we need a national digital literacy campaign, akin to the one the tobacco industry funded to help reduce the number of people in the United States who smoke. He holds out hope that tracking companies will help fund it, a measure of optimism I find pretty impressive, though not persuasive.