While you ponder that, read Exclusive: New York Times phasing out all 3rd-party advertising data, by Sara Fischer in Axios.
The cynic in me translates the headline as “Leading publishers cut out the middle creep to go direct with tracking-based advertising.” In other words, same can, nicer worms.
But maybe that’s wrong. Maybe we’ll only be tracked enough to get put into one of those “45 new proprietary first-party audience segments” or “at least 30 more interest segments.” And maybe only tracked on site.
But we will be tracked, presumably. Something needs to put readers into segments. What else will do that?
So, here’s another question: Will these publishers track readers off-site to spy on their “interests” elsewhere? Or will tracking be confined to just what the reader does while using the site?
In a post on the ProjectVRM list, Adrian Gropper says this about the GDPR (in response to what I posted here): “GDPR, like HIPAA before it, fails because it allows an unlimited number of dossiers of our personal data to be made by unlimited number of entities. Whether these copies were made with consent or without consent through re-identification, the effect is the same, a lack of transparency and of agency.”
So perhaps it’s progress that these publishers (the Axios story mentions The Washington Post and Vox as well as the NYTimes) are only keeping limited dossiers on their readers alone.
But that’s not progress enough.
We need global ways to say to every publisher how little we wish them to know about us. Also ways to keep track of what they actually do with the information they have. (And we’re working on those. )
Being able to have one’s data back (e.g. via the CCPA) is a kind of progress (as is the law’s discouragement of collection in the first place), but we need technical as well as legal mechanisms for projecting personal agency online. (Models for this are Archimedes and Marvel heroes.) Not just more ways to opt out of being observed more than we’d like—especially when we still lack ways to audit what others do with the permissions we give them.
That’s the only way we’ll get rid of the worms.