Author: Benjamin Strauss
Our online privacy is compromised every time we surf the World Wide Web. Hackers, Internet advertisers, and other online entities are quickly eroding individual privacy for online users. Behavioral advertisers are tracking our every move, cataloguing our user data, and selling it to the highest bidder. Advertisers use that information to infer users’ most sensitive interests to inundate them with ads specifically targeted to their web browsing history.
Consumers are often presented with boilerplate privacy policies that they must consent to prior to using a web service or mobile application. Consumers have no means to fight back. They can either consent to data collection, or forego using the online service. As we live more and more of our lives online, this is nothing more than a Hobson’s choice.
This paper sheds light on the many privacy problems present each time users browse the web, and analyzes current strategies aimed at combatting these problems. Domestic and international legislation has come and gone with little success.
Federal legislation is one way to address this problem, but many believe it is unlikely the government can keep up with the innovative and vibrant pace of the Internet. The free market offers alternatives. A voluntary Do-Not-Track system could place power in the hands of consumers to force advertisers to reform their data collection practices to better respond to consumer preference and national consensus.