Do not track vs. don’t track
There’s been some buzz about a new “do not track” button that will be installed in coming versions of browsers like google chrome. The idea is to allow people their privacy online, if they want it.
The only problem is, it doesn’t give people privacy. It only blocks some cookies (called third-party cookies) but allows others to stick.
Don’t get me wrong- without third-party cookies, the job I do and every other data scientist working in the internet space will get harder. But please don’t think you’re not being tracked simply by clicking on that.
And as I understand it, it isn’t even clear that third-party cookies won’t be added: I think it’s just an honor system thing, so third-party cookie pasters will be politely asked not to add their cookies.
But don’t believe me, visualize your own cookies as you travel the web. The guy (Atul Varma) who wrote this also open-sourced the code, which is cool. See also the interesting conversation in comments on his blog Toolness.
Let me suggest another option, which we can call “don’t track”. It’s when nothing about what you do is saved. There’s a good explanation of it here, and I suggest you take a look if you aren’t an expert on tracking. They make a great argument for this: if you’re googling “Hepatitis C treatments” you probably don’t want that information saved, packaged, and sold to all of your future employers.
They also have a search engine called “DuckDuckGo” which seems to work well and doesn’t track at all, doesn’t send info to other people, and doesn’t save searches.
I’m glad to see pushback on these privacy issues. As of now we have countless data science teams working feverishly in small companies to act as predators against consumers, profiling them, forecasting them, and manipulating their behavior. I’m composing a post about what a data science team working for consumers would have on their priority list. Suggestions welcome.