Internet privacy conflicts

The Wall Street Journal just published the sixth article in its excellent series about Internet privacy, or the lack of it.

The Wall Street Journal just published the sixth article in its excellent series about Internet privacy, or the lack of it.

This latest article focuses on Web sites and ad companies tracking kids online and shows that kids are tracked even more extensively than adults, if that is possible. Meanwhile, over in Europe things are about to get much harder for the trackers.

Commerce Department scrutinizes Internet privacy

The previous Journal article on third-party tracking of Internet users was scary enough. (See "The price of free Internet: a piece of your soul".) The latest article will strike fear, and cause feelings of revolution, in the hearts of parents all over the United States. The Journal research showed that the top 50 kid-centric Web sites installed an average of 30 per cent more tracking cookies, beacons and other pieces of tracking technology than did the top 50 adult-targeted sites. The Journal also found that some companies were openly selling the information they got from this tracking. One was shamed into stopping when the Journal came calling, but the article paints a very sad picture of the aggressive lack of concern these companies have for the privacy of their users.

Meanwhile, the New York Times published a related article titled "Cloud Computing Hits Snag in Europe."

The gist of this story is that European companies have been slow to move to cloud computing, at least in part because of European data privacy laws. Europe has some quite strong laws that block the movement of data gathered about identifiable individuals to anyplace outside the European Union (EU) unless that place protects such information at least as well as does the EU. The United States explicitly is seen in Europe as not having any useful data privacy laws.

Google seems to have figured out a way to limit where data can go, at least for the U.S. government, but I have not seen any indication that Google will offer the same assurance to its other customers here or in Europe.

Since many of the sellers of cloud computing services will not, or cannot, provide guarantees about where in the world data might wind up, European companies are not legally able to use such cloud services for employee or customer data. That limits the usefulness of the services in Europe. The Times quotes Gartner as estimating that $8.3 billion will be spent in the United States this year on cloud services while all of Europe will only spend $18 billion.

At this point European law is scheduled to get even tougher. For example, over the next few months the EU countries are supposed to pass laws requiring opt-in for Web cookies, the very sort of tracking technology the Journal article shows to be running amuck in the United States.

That could put quite a dent in the legal ability of those companies to track anyone in Europe.

The Times article says that Microsoft has called for "a comprehensive, workable global privacy framework that is consistent, flexible, transparent and principles-based." A lot of nice words there -- but arranged in a way that makes it clear that Microsoft thinks that the framework should just trust companies to do the right thing rather than make any actual rules. For what it's worth, I sort of trust Microsoft to see any private information it has about me as a company resource and thus something to be exploited by Microsoft itself rather than being sold to others. I do not feel that way about any of the many ad companies that the Journal has been writing about.

Disclaimer: As far as I know the main thing Harvard exploits is the good will of its alums, so the above privacy lament is mine, not the university's.

Read more about lan and wan in Network World's LAN & WAN section.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags internet privacyindustry verticalsgovernmentLAN & WAN

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Scott Bradner

Network World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?