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From Washington to Brussels, policymakers focus on digital privacy. Just this week, three states and the District of Columbia have filed a series of lawsuits against Google, accusing it of violating consumer privacy. Dozens of invoices have been received introduced in the National Assembly to force companies to develop digital tools that help users manage their privacy. And companies spend billions of dollars adhere – or skirt – labyrinth of complicated privacy laws already exist.
This week is called Data Privacy Week.
But there’s one inconvenient truth about all the effort that has gone into creating and enforcing digital privacy safeguards: When it comes to the internet’s most extensive privacy rule, the public seems to like don’t care – or more precisely, don’t. seem to have the knowledge or tools to profit effectively.
That’s not how things work out. The last time a pop-up appeared on a website and asked if you would allow cookies to steal your personal data, did you actually read the fine print or think for more than five seconds before press “accept?” Me neither.
“No one reads cookie banners,” said Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy advocate who played a key role in promoting regulation. “They almost become a futile exercise.”
In fact, it’s even worse. In fact, the proliferation of cookie banners both keeps people from achieving their goals, and gives companies another way to manipulate users.
Companies have turned the cookie banner into a tool that does the opposite of what regulators intended. Have you heard of “search engine optimization?” There are companies now, known as consent management platforms, that are promising “optimized consent rates” – meaning they create cookie banners that will drive people to hit the “accept” button. A simple example: According to a study, removing the “opt out” button on the front page of the cookie banner will increase consent by 22 or 23 percentage points. Some of these companies said they were able to achieve an agreement rate of 90 percent.
A common consumer response is what two communications professors, Nora Draper and Joseph Turow, described in a 2019 paper as a “digital resignation.” It’s a state in which users know full well that their data is being hijacked and monetized – and well aware they are being manipulated online – but don’t feel that they can do anything about it. that. They are doomed to let this happen because they see it as the unfortunate price to pay for being a netizen.
“Most people don’t even know what a cookie is,” says Florian Schaub, a privacy expert at the University of Michigan and co-author of several studies on cookies and cookie banners. “In our research, we’ve found that pressing the ‘accept’ button is not actually a sign of consent,” he added.
Of course, there is no doubt that people would like care about data privacy. In California, a ballot initiative strengthening the state’s privacy law passed in 2020 with 56% of the vote, despite the usual opposition from big tech companies. The new law includes the creation of the California Privacy Shield to enforce the state’s data privacy rules. It will be able to issue subpoenas and have the power to issue regulations. It’s hard to know – the new law won’t take effect until next year – but it’s possible that stronger enforcement could eventually force tech companies to make it easier for consumers to make informed choices.
Meanwhile, privacy activists like Mr. Schrems believe the real answer is to create easier ways for consumers to make decisions – simple, infrequent decisions – about how to make decisions. they are tracked. Mr. Schrems, for example, is looking to get rid of cookie banners entirely by creating software that can send signals automatically from your browser. It could act like a browser setting that blocks pop-ups instead of requiring the user to make that decision for every site, eliminating the need to repeatedly click on intentionally complicated banners. It will also make it much more difficult for companies to agree to games.
For now, however, we’re still stuck with cookie banners. And we still decipher the terms on each site ourselves and make the decision we’ve been thinking about – at least when we’re not in a hurry.
What do you think? Do most internet users care about taking control of their data? What tools do they need to do so effectively? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/29/business/dealbook/how-cookie-banners-backfired.html How cookie banners cause reactions – The New York Times