Se habla mucho sobre la privacidad online, los cookies y el seguimiento que hacen las webs para, sobre todo, publicidad. Pero ¿Es realmente tan perverso este “tracking”?
Every time I read an article such as this one ( Privacy Groups: Behavioral opt-out system “insufficient and ineffective ) on this or that group talking about online privacy, tracking, cookies and all related to online tracking, I cant help but laugh.
We’re living an era where cross-referencing the most diverse information across different systems to generate knowledge on any given issue is commonplace. That is, for example, what CRM systems do. And we have dozens of them around us every day.
However, people complain continually about online tracking and, even though in an ideal world I’d support them. We must all understand the reasons why this kind of tracking systems have been developed and why they are running almost in every website.
There are two issues here, as I see it:
- Why are people tracked across websites?
- Why are people concerned about being tracked across websites?
Very similar questions but in the first one the actor is the website, in the second one is the individual.
Why are people tracked across websites?
First of all, forget about Big Brother and any other Orwellian concept. People are not tracked because of a deep necessity of control by the webmasters, in fact the two main reasons why any site tracks its users: improving usability for the users and keeping the site running for free (or as cheap as possible) for the user, through advertising.
Improving usability for the users
When you go to a restaurant several times you like the waiters to recognize you, to start giving you your favorite table, to offer you the kind of dishes you like…. same happens in a website. The idea is to make it as friendly, attractive, usable, and useful as possible in a more-or-less “invisible” way, without you noticing. In order to do that the system needs to learn about your interests, the sections of the website you visit and such.
Or did you think that in Amazon they have a seer that guesses the books you might be more interested in each time you open their site?
Moreover, any website has costs, the bigger, better and more sophisticated the site is, the higher the costs are. And if you can use it for free then someone must be paying for it somehow. That is where advertising comes in and where most of the bad tracking appears as well.
I call it bad tracking because it seems it is the one people don’t like. But you must understand that there is a 3rd party involved in all of this: the advertiser. Advertisers want to reach as many people as possible with the least cost for them. One way to do that is to get only to the group of people that might be interested in their product… and in order to do that he needs to know what group the audience of the website belongs to. Tracking in different websites allows the advertising network to “learn” about your interests and, in that way, provide you with the advertising suited to your profile.
- You win as you get advertising most suited for you.
- The advertiser wins because he gets to someone that may be a potential client.
- The website wins because he gets income to continue running.
- You win again because you can continue to use that website’s service for free.
Why are people concerned about being tracked across websites?The answer to this one is very easy: ignorance.
With this I don’t mean that you are an ignorant for being concerned, what I mean is that you really don’t know half of what is happening so you blame all on the traking cookies and such.
Just think about it. How many people are publishing every day, every hour, pictures, updates, comments about their daily life in Facebook or Google+ or wherever? Pictures of their kids, comments on when they’re leaving on holidays and where they’re going. And how many of those people hace their privacy settings in Facebook set up correctly?
How many people use games and applications in Facebook that request access to most of your data?
How many people accept as friends in these social networks people that they don’t really know?
How many people know that any mobile carrier knows (in a city with a 25m precision) where you always are?
How many people know all the information that Google gathered when taking the pictures for Streetview? (which has already given them some problems in certain countries)
How many people’s private data was stolen from the PlayStationNetwork? (mine included, as far as I know)
People don’t realise that they are leaving lots of personal information in Internet…. information that will stay there forever.Asking for a reasonable control on the companies that track your information for advertising is something we should do… but forcing them to leave aside online tracking is bad… very bad. Bad for them because one their revenues from advertising will drop as advertisers won’t want to pay as much as they do today in that new “uncontrolled and untracked” environment. And bad for all of us as users, as many websites will disappear or stop to be free.
I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on this issue as it affects us all.
José-Luis Núñez es Entrepreneur, Innovator, expert in online video