Progress on Privacy

To get this rolling, we now have Customer Commons, which will do for personal terms what Creative Commons does for copyright. Right now Customer Commons is co-baking standard terms with the Consent & Information Sharing Working Group at Kantara. For example, see Figure 3.

Figure 3. Customer Commons User Terms

In this example, the individual (as the first party) says personal data in a session is to be shared only with the second party (the website) for site use only, and to obey the Do Not Track request expressed by the HTTP header in the individual's browser.

Another one is #NoStalking shown in Figure 4, copied off a whiteboard last May at VRM Day.

Figure 4. #NoStalking

While Do Not Track, tracking protection and ad blocking have prophylactic effects on privacy threats to individuals, #NoStalking works as a peace offering to publishers in the midst of the "war" over ad blocking As I explain in "Why #NoStalking is a good deal for publishers", "it's a good one for both sides. Individuals proffering the #NoStalking term get guilt-free use of the goods they come to the publisher for, and the publisher gets to stay in business—and improve that business by running advertising that is actually valued by its recipients."

By valued I mean not based on tracking. As Don Marti explains in "Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful", "The more targetable that an ad medium is, the less it's worth." That's because non-targeted (that is, non-tracking-based) ads support the value of the publication they sponsor while also being supported by it. As Don puts it, non-targeted ads carry an economic signal, which "is proportional to the value of the content, not just the ad itself". So, when your browser tells a publisher you want #NoStalking from them, and the publisher agrees, you know that the ads you'll see are ones that value the content you came to the site for, rather than ones based on robotic surveillance of your life online, and likely to have little or nothing to do with the value of publication itself (serving, as it does, only as a sluice of convenience for advertising messages). It also says both the publication and the advertiser value your privacy.


Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal