In about two months, the European e-Privacy Directive on Web cookies will take effect, essentially requiring explicit consent from European users before any form of tracking is done via cookies. The upside of this is, of course, an increase in privacy for web surfers. Opponents, however, are claiming major negative impacts:
- Without persistent cookies, your favorite web sites couldn’t maintain state and users would use value – OK, then users who wanted that service would explicitly consent to tracking.
- Without persistent cookies, users might have to remember more passwords and keep logging in to their favorite web sites – OK, then users who didn’t want to go through that would explicitly consent to tracking.
- Without persistent cookies, things that are free on the Internet would have to charge users for them – OK, then users who didn’t want to pay would explicitly consent to tracking.
It is a simple equation. My actions on the Internet have value to both me and to those who wish to track me. I should own the decision to trade my privacy for some external value. The default should be having me make an explicit choice – good old “opt-in.” If someone wants to give me a gift horse, I reserve the right to first look in its mouth.
Most surveys, as recently reported by MSNBC, show users are nearly evenly split whether they care or not. That is their choice, just as they choose in the physical world whether to sign up for tracking services like OnStar or not. It is the job of marketing and advertising to convince people to choose to give up some value for a particular product or service – that equation didn’t change just because of the Web.
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