Tracking the Trackers Impossible?

Oct 08, 2010 - Krux Digital - 0
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The WSJ ran an article today featuring assertions by many of internet’s heavies that it is technically impossible to track the trackers.

“It is technically impossible for Yahoo! to be aware of all software or files that may be installed on a user’s computer when they visit our site,” Anne Toth, Yahoo’s vice president of global policy and head of privacy, wrote to U.S. Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas).

The lawmakers are co-chairmen of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus. In August, they requested information about data-collection practices from the 15 websites identified by The Wall Street Journal’s What They Know series as installing the most tracking technology on visitors’ computers.

The other responding companies were AT&T Corp., CareerBuilder.com, Comcast Corp., Merriam-Webster.com, News Corp.’s MySpace.com, New York Times Co.’s About.com, Photobucket.com and Verizon Wireless.

While that might be true in absolute terms, it is not true in practical terms. Krux Digital and other companies are at the vanguard, working on solutions that address the problems faced by consumers and publishers alike.

The assertions about the feasibility given prevailing advertising and content business models are spot on. Balancing the fair exchange of value across publishers, marketers, and consumers – as they all trade in the assets of audience, content, and environment – is central to the media business as we know it. Drawing from the WSJ article:

The operators, including Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. and AOL Inc., say they are improving disclosures about online tracking and offering users more ways to protect their privacy. But they say that eliminating tracking is technically difficult and economically impractical, because the targeted advertisements supported by tracking allow the operators to offer free content.

Increasingly, digital media publishers’ hierarchy of data needs is coming into focus. You can’t monetize an asset over which you don’t assert full ownership and control – and that’s being leaked or pilfered one speckle at a time. So, in addition to just wanting to do the right thing in terms of consumer privacy, publishers have a natural business incentive to first protect their data.

At Krux, we’re committed to helping publishers with management and then monetization, in that order, and that’s the thrust of our platform module release cycle. But again, our view is that website operators need to attack the data protection issue first. It’s the right thing for their business, consumers, regulators, legislators – everyone, really.

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