Such an elegant presentation of the main points of debate about the tracking of our interactions on the internet.
I’ve been peripherally conscious of the ‘Do Not Track’ issue and debate but not personally engaged. Then this week I watched a TED presentation by Gary Kovacs of the Mozilla Foundation and a few days later had this video brought to my attention by Nancy Duarte.
So what does it all mean? I think the key issue here is permission. Information we might be happy to share with an organisation we trusted, is something we resent being collected without our permission by organisations we don’t know.
While people are right in mostly perceiving this as risk, there is also an opportunity. Commercial organisations actively seek to understand their audience whereas government agencies haven’t seriously considered how things could be better if they understood individuals in their communities better. Uniformity is confused with equity.
Let’s say you want feedback on a new cycle commuting strategy, wouldn’t it be handy to know who in the community already cycles to work? If you need volunteers to support a music festival wouldn’t it help to know who likes the style of music being promoted? In an emergency wouldn’t it be useful to get in touch with people in clubs and associations who can get a message to all their members? You get the idea…
I think the creepiness factor of the current tracking models make them completely unsuitable for government. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be looking for better ways to understand our community. Methods that are automated, cost effective and don’t require people to fill in endless surveys. Methods that are open, honest and rely on people’s explicit permission.