I mentioned before on this blog (Delete cookies?!) that changes are imminent as far as data privacy online is concerned. The deadline for implementation of the new EU laws changing ePrivacy Directive is at the end of May and it will require consumers' consent to placing any cookies on his computer. The question was how to let consumers to freely, uninterruptedly use internet, while at the same time have them protected from breach of their privacy. One idea that I had mentioned was to have a pop-up window appear on the screen via which consumers would get a choice to agree to have their data collected and processed. Now, I don't know about you, dear readers, but I get a bit annoyed with pop-up windows and often just switch off the option for pop-up windows to open, at all. But if the consumers don't mind pop-up windows cascading on their computers while their browse the internet, that's actually an option that lets consumers make a decision whether to opt in into having their data shared.
Being interested for a while now in consumer behaviour, it didn't surprise me when I read today in the news of a new idea how to fulfil the requirements of the privacy directive, an idea that would provide for an opt-out system. Well, it's a common behavioural knowledge that most consumers go with the default option provided to them... which would mean that most consumers would not opt out and still enable the companies to gather and process their data. What's the idea? An introduction of a behavioural ad privacy icon (Online Behavioral Advertising Framework). Such an icon would appear alongside or within any online ads targeted using behavioural data. Consumers would then have an option to click on it and opt out of having their information collected for such purposes.
IAB Europe is a coalition of European industry associations that support the initiative, together with many other representatives of industry and business (e.g. Federation of European Direct and Interactive Marketing, The European Association of Communication Agencies and the World Federation of Advertisers). Again, it's not surprising that industry and business support this initiative, since it would be likely to contribute to not much having changed in practice. Moreover, this system had been introduced in the USA, which means that there are already companies willing and able to provide the technology, which also means there are powerful parties who have a vast interest in supporting this idea.
As you can imagine I'm not a supporter of introducing an opt-out system, since I don't believe that would actually contribute to any increase in consumer protection. However, this initiative might be adjusted (and there are plans to do so) in such a way, that a consumer upon clicking on an icon might either choose to opt in or opt out, with no choice being made for him upfront. Now, if only the consumers had to click on that icon and if the fact that they do not click on it didn't mean that they chose to opt-out from the protection offered to them... wait, then we would again be talking about a system alike to pop-up windows. Funny, how that works.