APIs, End-Users, and the Privacy Commons

Mozilla is throwing their hat into the ‘privacy commons‘ ring. Inspired by Aza Rankin’s ‘Making Privacy Policies Not Suck‘, Mozilla is trying to think through a series of icons intended to educate users about websites’ privacy policies. This is inspirational, insofar as a large corporation is actually taking up the challenge of the privacy commons, but at the same time we’ve heard that a uniform privacy analysis system is coming before….in 1998. A working draft for the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) was released May 19, 1998 during the still heady-times of people thinking that Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) could secure people’s online privacy or, at least, make them aware of privacy dangers. The P3P initiative failed.

Part of the reason behind P3P’s failure was the length of its documentation (it was over 150% the length of Alice in Wonderland) and the general challenge of ‘properly’ checking for privacy compliance. Perhaps most importantly, when the P3P working group disbanded in 2007 they noted that a key reason behind their failure was “insufficient support for curent Browser implementors”. Perhaps with Mozilla behind the project, privacy increasingly being seen as space of product competition and differentiation, and a fresh set of eyes that can learn from the successes of the creative commons and other privacy initiatives, something progressive will emerge from Mozilla’s effort.

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