"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.” - Eric Schmidt, 2009
That was the opinion of Google’s former CEO. You’ve likely heard similar sentiments expressed by your friends and family, “Who cares if I share my data - I’m not doing anything online that needs to be private.”
And even if we don’t say this out loud, we demonstrate it to be true every time we click ‘agree’ to one of those annoying privacy notifications.
This laissez-faire approach has conditioned 99.9% of internet users to automatically agree to a website’s terms and conditions without reading them. A recent study suggested it would take a person about 30 working days to review the privacy policies of every website they visit. So can you blame anyone for consenting on autopilot?
Even if we read the privacy policies we come across, it’s unlikely that we would fully grasp what we've agreed to.
Dense legal texts hide what websites do with our data and analysing the code is hard. So, unless you are both a legal expert and a computer scientist, when you hit ‘I agree’ you really don’t know what you have consented to.
This is a problem
There are privacy laws out there to protect us, but if you can’t tell what’s happening to your data, and you’ve already given consent to its abuse, then there’s not much a regulator can do to help.
So, how and why has this become the internet's status quo?
A central culprit for this complexity and opacity are digital ads. Websites and apps use 3rd party ad networks like Google Ads, or install 3rd party code in order to show you ads. But by using these services websites and apps have to give away your data as part of the deal. After they do this they, and you, have little control over how it is used or where it ends up.
So, anyone making money from digital advertising (basically every website and service you use) has vested interests in burying how they use your data in their lengthy legal documents and making sure you quickly agree and never read them.
If people understood what was happening to their data, and that it breaks the law, they might not give the consent that is crucial to earning ad revenue.
It’s about framing the argument. Eric Schmidt’s quote suggests that the data exchange in digital advertising is nothing to worry about unless you are a criminal or terrorist; therefore, a normal internet user has no reason to object to they way Google earns its money. We reject this view and argue that it is a false dilemma.
We’ve previously written about why privacy is important for everyone - not just criminals looking to hide illegal activity. This is why at Glimpse we are not ignoring the lack of privacy in digital ads and the impact it has on consumers and society. Our work is dedicated to building a new way of delivering digital ads - one the still allows websites to make money, but gives absolute privacy to consumers. To learn more about Glimpse Protocol …