online privacy

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If so, they don’t seem to be opting out of behavioral targeting when given the chance. Ad Age reports:

Since last year, ad organizations in the U.S. have been running a campaign meant to stiff-arm regulatory efforts of the sort that went into effect last week in Europe, where companies will now have to get permission from consumers before dropping cookies onto their computers. The centerpiece of the campaign to convince Congress and the FTC that self-regulation is good enough is the “Ad Option Icon” placed in some ads, pointing to information about behavioral targeting and offering a way to opt out of it.

Thus far it’s received relatively low response, a rare case where low click-through on an ad is positioned as a positive thing. The click-through rate is just 0.002% and of those people who do follow the link, only 10% opt out of the ads, according to DoubleVerify, which recently won a contract from the industry trade group to license the icon for ad clients. Two other companies, Evidon and TRUSTe, also provide the service. Evidon, which has the longest set of data, is seeing click-through of 0.005% with only 2% opting out from 30 billion impressions.

The Nudge blog has long been interested in “one click” opt-outs. While admirable, the Ad Option Icon is not a single click. As part of the regulatory debate, companies might want to explore the possibility of making opting-out a bit easier. If the barriers already seem low, they are – but you aren’t thinking like a behavioralist.

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1) A safe that locks away tempting objects for between two minutes and four days. Hat tip: Thomas Sander.

2) Kids like Frosted Flakes because of Tony the Tiger.

3) “Microsoft built its browser so that users must deliberately turn on privacy settings every time they start up the software.

4) Cigarette packaging ideas for discouraging smoking. Hat tip: Dan Greenberg.

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Carnegie Mellon’s Alessandro Acquisti thinks behavioral economics can help explain a paradox of information technology: When you provide people with more privacy controls online, they tend to become more cautious about disclosing personal information.


Read the full paper here.


Over at Freakonomics, Daniel Solove, author of The Future of Reputation, muses about default settings and social nudges to help protect online privacy. An excerpt:

Q: You say the design choices of websites and their default settings have an enormous impact on privacy. Can you suggest a way a current website might be changed to improve privacy along these lines?

A: Many social network websites are set up with a default setting that makes information fully available to the public. This is the easiest setting, and many people just go with the default.

Social network websites are also not very nuanced about how they categorize relationships — the world can’t easily be divided into friends and not-friends.

Off-line, we have a myriad of different types of relationships — each with very different norms of information sharing. But social network websites have a simpler, more reductive typology of relationships, and as a result, people wind up sharing information with others that they might normally not share information with.

If sites were structured to set the defaults toward making disclosure more restricted, it would help matters quite a bit — and make people think before exposing information to the entire world.

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