Well it seems like a epic battle is about to get underway. To the North are the Humans - demanding that their Privacy be protected and to the South are the Algorithms - constantly "searching" to undermine my Privacy in the name of a better experience.
Years ago when I was studying for my Airline Pilot's license, one of subjects was the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, colloquially known as the "ITCZ". It's that area on the planet (Source: link) that circles the Earth, near the equator, where the trade winds of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres come together. The intense sun and warm water of the equator heats the air in the ITCZ, raising its humidity and causing it to rise. As the air rises it cools, releasing the accumulated moisture in an almost perpetual series of thunderstorms.
Well that's exactly what's happening right now. Especially with the announcement this morning by the WSJ (link) that Google is tracking iPhone users. There is now intense heat coming to bear from the "Humans" regarding their privacy. Something is going to give. People want a Choice when it comes to their Privacy. Sort of like "Freedom of Speech". You just can't take it away from people and expect them to not be upset.
For those of you who are interested in Privacy I suggest you head over to this link It's the W3.org's Web site on Public Tracking. Take a spin through the mailing lists. It's fascinating. Everything is hinging on one binary number… 1 This is the setting that users will be able to control in their browser to stop Web sites tracking them. Unfortunately as we've seen today Google et al is ignoring those settings.
This cannot end well for the Algorithms - and here's why. The Humans (Lawyers and Privacy Rights Activists) will write legislation to reign in the ability to track. As scissors always beats paper so will the legislation. However here's where the law of unintended consequences comes into play - Privacy on the Internet is NOT binary (as I have written about before - link). Setting a Do Not Track header to 1 is not enough context to make a really informed decision about what a customer wants.
Ask anyone these days - Privacy is about Choice not about a number. Any solution MUST offer me a Choice otherwise it will fail. In the meantime get ready for some serious thunderstorms - the ITCZ is heating up.