Linksys has adopted a horrible approach to further monetizing the digital ecosystem; some of their routers now hijack 404 pages to deliver advertising! This leads me to ask: when customers are sold automatic advertising + networking gear should they really be required to pay for the router? It seems like most users (i.e. those who won’t go any further than running the default system to set up their wireless networks) are going to be in a situation where they pay cash for a device AND subsequently have to put up with obnoxious advertisements.
While a freemium model for the sale of hardware (i.e. get the router for free + advertising, and evade advertising with either a one-off or monthly payment plan) is interesting, setting defaults so that people are both paying for a piece of hard and increasing third-parties’ revenue streams by being forced to view ads is just wrong.
The web operates the way it does, largely, because there is a lot of money to be made in the digitally-connected ecosystem. Without the revenues brought in by DoubleClick, as an example, Google would likely be reluctant to provide its free services that are intended to bring you into Google’s ad-serving environment. A question that needs to be asked, however, is whether DoubleClick and related ad delivery systems: (a) collect personal information; (b) if the answer to (a) is “yes”, then whether such collections might constitute privacy infringements.
In the course of this post, I begin by outlining what constitutes personal information and then proceed to outline DoubleClick’s method of collecting personal information. After providing these outlines, I argue that online advertising systems do collect personal information and that the definitions that Google offers for what constitutes ‘personal information’ are arguably out of line with Canadian sensibilities of what is ‘personal information’. As a result, I’ll conclude by asserting that violations may in fact be occurring, with the argument largely emerging from Nissembaum’s work on contextual integrity. Before proceeding, however, I’ll note that I’m not a lawyer, nor am I a law student: what follows is born from a critical reading of information about digital services and writings from philosophers, political scientists, technologists and privacy commissioners. Continue reading
The UK is in a bit of a bad row. According the BBC news site, today the Speaker of the Commons has stepped down, there is an Irish child abuse report coming due, and violence is rife in a failing prison. What hasn’t made BBC headlines, is that the Prime Minister’s office has made it clear that it will not look into British ISPs’ business arrangements with Phorm. After noting that the government is interested in shielding citizens’ privacy, the Prime Minister’s office notes,
ICO is an independent body, and it would not be appropriate for the Government to second guess its decisions. However, ICO has been clear that it will be monitoring closely all progress on this issue, and in particular any future use of Phorm’s technology. They will ensure that any such future use is done in a lawful, appropriate and transparent manner, and that consumers’ rights are fully protected (Source).
The Prime Minister’s office is unwilling to ‘second guess’ the ICO, and instead refers petitioners (there were about 21,000) to the ICO’s public statement about Phorm. In that publication (dated April 8, 2009), the ICO stated that that:
Indeed, Phorm assert that their system has been designed specifically to allow the appropriate targeting of adverts whilst rigorously protecting the privacy of web users. They clearly recognise the need to address the concerns raised by a number of individuals and organisations including the Open Rights Group (Source).