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Does your Website need a Privacy Policy?

24 May

Do you think the industry should adopt an opt-out or opt-in approach when using cookies used to track user behavior?

Cookies are a small amount of text-based data stored in your browser and assist with displaying the full range of features of a contemporary website. They have been used by web developers well over 15 years now, however, they have long been part of a heated debate regarding privacy. The debate surrounds the issue of third-party usage of cookies in order to collect data to assist in marketing campaigns via, for example, banner ads.

Their goal is to display ads that may interest you based on your previous web searches and topics of sites you visit the most. For example, I frequently visit sites related to education so I’ve noticed I am often seeing banner ads for degrees and certificates currently available. Does this mean my ‘privacy’ is being invaded? In my opinion, not at all, and this would be one of my arguments as to why I prefer web developers and e-marketing campaigns to use an ‘opt-out’ approach with cookies. The automation which results as a result of cookies is what makes my web browsing a more enjoyable and hassle free experience. I want my browser to pay attention to what I’m interested in, to remember my usernames and passwords, and the list goes on. If I ever have any doubts, it is always possible to change my browser privacy settings in order to block third-party tracking cookies.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) exists to make the Internet work better by producing high quality, relevant technical documents that influence the way people design, use, and manage the Internet. IETF published specifications, as of April 2011, for the use of third-party cookies and is outlined at RFC 6265. Privacy laws and the IETF specifications in mind, some of the questions you as a web developer and/or analyst should be asking are:

  1. What information are you collecting about website visitors?
  2. How are you using this information?
  3. Who has access to it?

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References:

  1. PEPIDA, A Guide for Businesses and Organizations, http://www.priv.gc.ca/information/guide_e.asp
  2. All About Cookies, Privacy Concerns, http://www.allaboutcookies.org/privacy-concerns/
  3. EU Cookie / Privacy Laws: Implications On Data Collection And Analysis: http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/eu-cookie-privacy-law-data-analysis-collection/ 
  4. Privacy Act, Privacy Commissioner of Canada, http://www.priv.gc.ca/resource/fs-fi/02_05_d_11_01_e.asp.
  5. A Guide for Businesses and Organizations Your Privacy Responsibilities, Privacy Commissioner of Canada, http://www.priv.gc.ca/information/guide_e.asp.
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