in the right direction and sends a powerful message, but is it enough? Ostensibly, it relies on users to get informed about how them and, if they wish to, regulate or turn off the tracking. It’s a system that, historically speaking, has not produced excellent results. In the words of Soviet satirists Ilf and Petrov, “The cause of helping the drowning is in the drowning’s own hands.”
Today’s online consumer is drowning in the deluge of, cookie pop-ups, and various web and app tracking permissions. New regulations pile more privacy disclosures, and businesses are happy to oblige. They pass the information burden to the end-user, whose only rational move is to accept blindly because reading through the heaps of information does not make sense rationally, economically, or subjectively. We have only one option to save that overburdened consumer: .
A notice that goes unnoticed
It’s a privacy double whammy. Online businesses and major platforms gear privacy notices and other relevant data disclosures toward obtaining consent, not educating and explaining. To get on the platform, users have to accept the . By taking it, they allow tracking and intrusive ads. If they the privacy notice before taking it, it costs them valuable time and can be challenging and frustrating.
It’s usually a document created by lawyers, for lawyers, without thinking one second about the businesses deliberately fail to make the text understandable and pack it with silly or refreshingly honest content.. Safe in knowing nobody reads such disclosures, some
One company even claimed its users’ immortal souls and right to eternal life. For consumers, on the other hand, the obligatory checkmark next to the privacy notice can be a nuisance — or it can lull them into a false sense of data security on the unlikely occasion that a privacy notice is so blatantly disagreeable that it pushes users away from one platform. An alternative, this is often not a solution, either.
Monetizing data has become the dominant business model online, and personal data ultimately flows toward the samegiants. Even if you’re not directly on their platforms, many of the media you are on work with through plugins, buttons, cookies, and the like. Resistance seems futile.
A regulatory framework from another time
If companies deliberately produce opaque privacy notices nobody reads, maybe lawmakers and regulators could intervene and help improve users’ data privacy. Historically, this has not been the . In pre-digital times, lawmakers were responsible for many pre-contractual disclosure mandates that resulted in the heaps of paperwork that accompanied leasing an apartment, buying a car, opening a bank account, or taking out a mortgage.
Many lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic often do not understand how It’s part laissez-faire, part “I don’t care.”operate and how they make their money with user data — or pretend not to understand for various reasons. Instead of tackling the issue themselves, legislators ask companies to inform the users in whatever “clear and comprehensible” language they see fit.
Therefore, online businesses and powerful platforms gear privacy notices and other relevant data disclosures toward obtaining consent, not educating and explaining. It keeps the , making for great PR when the opportunity for a token privacy gesture appears. Still, a of users are waking up to the setup. It is time for a change.
A call to companies to do the right thing
We have seen that it’s difficult for users to understand all the “legalese,” and they have nowhere to go even if they did. We have also noted lawmakers’ inadequate knowledge and motivation to regulate tech properly. It is up to to act now that growing numbers of online users express their discontent and frustration. If is one of our time’s most significant challenges, it requires concerted action. Like countries worldwide pledged to lower , enterprises must band together and commit to protecting their users’ privacy.
So, here’s a plea to tech companies large and small: Kill your legal privacy notices! Don’t write texts that almost no user understands to protect yourselves against potential legal claims so that you can continue collecting private user data. Instead, use privacy notices that are addressed to your users and that everybody can understand.
And don’t stop there — don’t only talk the talk but walk the walk:that do not rely on collecting and processing personal data. Please return to the internet’s open-source protocol roots, and deliver value to your community, not and its advertisers. It is possible, it is profitable, and it is rewarding.