Ever wondered why online privacy protection always lags behind tracking companies? The answer is simple: Privacy is still thought to be more of an ideology rather than a solid business model. No one invests time and money in an ideology.
In recent years we have witnessed an exponential growth in the number of companies that rely on the process of tracking, aggregating, analyzing, and eventually selling Internet users’ online activities, typically without their recognition or consent. What makes this practice so appealing is the opportunity to make substantial revenues without any resistance from users.
Tracking companies clearly benefit from the current state of affairs where users are meant to rely on outdated technologies and on regulations more suitable for the previous decade’s Internet technology to protect their online privacy. Take tracking cookies, for example. They have been used for tracking users across the Internet for many years now, but only recently have regulators finally started to define what constitutes permissible usage and what is considered a prohibited practice.
The same goes for anti-tracking technologies. Most of them are simply outdated and can only respond to yesterday’s problems (e.g. blocking cookies) instead of dealing with more sophisticated tracking methods such as browser fingerprints or keystrokes dynamics.
Trackers grow their lucrative cash cows from digging their gold into our information mines. With such comfortable digging, they will keep allocating money and resources for lobbying against any unwelcome regulation and for technological developments that will always keep them a step ahead of us users. In other words, the users will lose in the battle over privacy.
A real change will occur only when users regain control over their private information and be given the tools to protect it in a proactive way. We can’t rely on regulation because it’s slow, tends to lag behind, varies between countries, and in most cases doesn’t solve the real problem. Tracking companies aren’t going to provide us with the solution either. Our private information generates their revenues, and “business ethics” will always be secondary to maximizing sales.
There has to be a shift towards a user-controlled solution. A new model is needed that is proactive, independent, and not reliant on regulators or trackers’ goodwill. A model that will force trackers to recognize users’ rights to keep their information private will shift the power balance back towards the users.