Aleecia M. McDonald and Wendy Seltzer, Quantifying the Internet’s Erasers: Analysis through Chilling Effects Data
Workshop draft abstract:
The Internet has turned the childhood threat of a “permanent record” real (though it hasn’t necessarily made that record accurate), causing many to ask whether there’s any hope for privacy once information has entered search engines. In Europe, discussion centers on a “right to be forgotten,” which relies not on removing data, but rather de-indexing it. In the US, a 2012 bill proposed an “Internet Eraser Button,” with a similar theme of de-indexing data for children.
Opponents to these de-indexing approaches have asserted they are technically impossible. And yet, de-indexing sounds remarkably similar to how we already handle some information that corporations would prefer not to share — claimed copyright infringements. The DMCA encourages “information location tools,” including search engines, to respond to takedown notices by removing links, even if the alleged infringement remains online — much as an Eraser Button might operate to de-index data for individuals.
This form of notice and takedown has been operating for more than a decade, and the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse maintains records of such de-index requests to Google and Twitter. In this paper, we use Chilling Effects to quantify the growth of copyright take down notices over time, put forward a set of competing possibilities for comparison with the scale of problem an Internet Eraser Button for Privacy might address. We then project what the results might mean for the technical viability or intractability of addressing individual privacy harms through de-linking.
Aleecia McDonald & Lorrie Cranor, An Empirical Study of How People Perceive Online Behavioral Advertising
Comment by: Joseph Turow
Published version available here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1989092
Workshop draft abstract:
We performed a series of in-depth qualitative interviews with 14 subjects who answered advertisements to participate in a university study about Internet advertising. Subjects were not informed this study had to do with behavioral advertising privacy, but raised privacy concerns on their own unprompted. We asked, “what are the best and worst things about Internet advertising?” and “what do you think about Internet advertising?” Participants held a wide range of views ranging from enthusiasm about ads that inform them of new products and discounts they would not otherwise know about, to resignation that ads are “a fact of life,” to resentment of ads that they find “insulting.” Many participants raised privacy issues in the first few minutes of discussion without any prompting about privacy. We discovered that many participants have a poor understanding of how Internet advertising works, do not understand the use of first-party cookies, let alone third-party cookies, did not realize that behavioral advertising already takes place, believe that their actions online are completely anonymous unless they are logged into a website, and believe that there are legal protections that prohibit companies from sharing information they collect online. We found that participants have substantial confusion about the results of the actions they take within their browsers, do not understand the technology they work with now, and clear cookies as much out of a notion of hygiene as for privacy. When we asked participants to read the NAI opt-out cookie description, only one understood the text. One participant expressed concern the NAI opt-out program was actually a scam to gather additional personal information. No participants had heard of opt-out cookies or flash cookies. We also found divergent views on what constitutes advertising. Industry self-regulation guidelines assume consumers can distinguish third-party widgets from first-party content, and further assume that consumers understand data flows to third-party advertisers. Instead, we find some people are not even aware of when they are being advertised to, let alone aware of what data is collected or how it is used.