Don Marti

Sat 19 Jul 2014 07:07:47 AM PDT

Surfacing, not hiding, the creepy?

(update 11 Mar 2015: take out the P word. It's not about that.)

Let's look at the scorecard for the surveillance marketing game. The mainstream coverage would choose up sides like so:


Not so good for our side. But if you do some research, the scorecard looks more like so:


Quite a difference. Both publishers and brands have an incentive to improve the level of tracking protection. So it's counterproductive to put brands and publishers on one side, and users on the other. Everyone, except for some direct response advertisers and adtech/adfraud firms, wins when publishers can sell, and brands can buy, signal-carrying ads.

Informing the user

If you're a browser or platform vendor using "privacy" as a selling point, how do you make the user aware of it? Most platforms try to conceal tracking. But if you're working with the creeped-out feeling instead of trying to soothe it, you need to give the user a little hint of, "Gosh, I'm glad I didn't step in that!" in the same way that a mail application shows you the count of messages in your spam folder. For example, users could get a notification when entering the range of a new wireless shopper tracker, then have the option to hush it up.

The dreaded "Do you want to accept this cookie?" dialog could even be simplified. Instead of presenting the cookie with no context, you could get...

Do you want to accept tracking by This site appears on the following lists:

Block this site / Block all sites covered by both of these lists / Accept tracking

The challenge is to add just enough "look how I'm protecting you—aren't I a good little device?" to keep the user uneasy when he or she uses something else.