Whose Data is it?

Online advertising is going to change completely. Today online advertising works based on user data gathered from users’ browsing habits. This model places very less or no importance on the privacy of the average user. Apple and Google are rolling out updates to their web browsers, Safari and Chrome, which prevent a user’s browsing habits from being tracked with Intelligent Tracking Prevention.

Given how central tracking users’ browsing habits is to online marketing (and when I say marketing it’s not limited to products companies sell but also online campaigns, including political campaigns, how online news portals gauge reader preferences and target them with content accordingly and so on), the Google and Apple development is totally disruptive, which empowers the user undoubtedly but also severely disadvantages online advertisers.

But there is a bigger question here. Whether gathering my privacy data is bad or not is dependent on whether I’m okay with my data being tracked. Most people are okay with their data being tracked as long as the data is not financial. Apple and Google may have prioritized data privacy to arrive at a standard global model based on European preferences. (Google has been asked by European courts to ensure privacy of user data.) But a European preference for data privacy mayn’t reflect a global attitude towards data.

Today we happily share lot of personal data with governments for security, citizenship and welfare related reasons. Undoubtedly, it’s one thing to share data with government, another to share it with corporations, but we in India are comfortable with the quid pro quo philosophy of data sharing as long as it doesn’t endanger sensitive financial details.

There is another aspect to this development. Intelligent Tracking Prevention will help the internet giants prevent tracking of user browsing data by average online marketers, but will it also stop Apple and Google from capturing user data which is central to at least Google’s online business model?

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