View Full Version : Recap: Ghostery Panel at SXSW ‚?? Sex Lies and Cookies: Web Privacy EXPOSED!

03-16-12, 08:00 PM
We sent our Ghostery team down to South by Southwest this year to facilitate a panel made up of the United States‚?? leading privacy experts. It turned out to be nothing short of a phenomenal discussion, based around one central question:

‚??How do we define ‚??tracking‚???

As anyone who works in industry, government, or for consumer advocacy groups knows, this is one of the most difficult ‚?? and one of the most integral ‚?? terms to define when talking about online privacy. Partly because of the speed of technology, and partly because of the multitude of agendas that depend on getting the definition just right, it has remained the largest area of contention in the quest for privacy controls.

Our panel was made up four experts: Lydia Parnes (former director, Bureau of Consumer Protection at FTC), http://betteradblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/berin_chris-copy.png?w=240&h=205 (http://betteradblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/berin_chris-copy.png)Christopher Soghoian (graduate fellow at Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research), Lorrie Cranor (associate professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Carnegie Mellon), and Berin Szoka (founder, TechFreedom), and moderated by Ghostery‚??s senior product manager Andy Kahl.

Every speaker had his or her own view of what tracking was. On one side, there was Chris Soghoian, one of the creators of Do Not Track, who was staunchly opposed to any sort of tracking that was implemented by ‚??an industry that lies to and exploits consumers.‚?? At the other extreme we had Berin Szoka, a libertarian who is mostly opposed to internet regulation in any fashion. From a legal and economic background, he pushed that ‚??It‚??s not an accident that advertising is driving the web.‚?? The conversation between these two panelists was lively, to say the least.

Representing an empirical approach to the issue was Lorrie Cranor, whose research at CMU has led to some big changes in the way privacy controls are handled, including our own. Lorrie made the great point that even with the current DAA and Google campaigns, there has not yet been enough user education surrounding the self-regulatory movement. Regarding tracking and behavioral advertising, she asked the ad industry the question, ‚??How about making some ads to explain what you‚??re doing‚???

http://betteradblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/img_1089.jpg?w=450&h=337 (http://betteradblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/img_1089.jpg)


Lydia Parnes, with her extensive FTC background, provided a very levelheaded approach to the issue, asserting that there are compromises that are already being made between the industry and the government, and that we
(http://betteradblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/img_1089.jpg)are going to see more in the future as the privacy issue evolves. Tracking, to her, was not an on/off switch: ‚??There are general notions of what people are comfortable with, they should have choice.‚??

In the end, the main takeaways from the panel were pretty clear to us. We still have a lot to talk about when it comes to internet privacy ‚?? if the multiple parties involved can‚??t come to an agreement as to what ‚??tracking‚?? is, it‚??s going to be very challenging to find a one-size-fits-all solution. At the same, we need tools that can grow and evolve with technology that provide choices for the entire spectrum of users ‚?? choices that allow users to make up their own minds about what they consider is invasive to their privacy, and what they deem is appropriate. These tools need to be backed up by educational resources that allow people who care to make informed decisions, regardless of what ‚??tracking‚?? means to the powers that be.

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