For many years it has seemed that there were two types on people – those who cared about privacy and those who didn’t. Those who cared tended to have a technical background which meant they understood more about what would be going on behind the scenes. The others just didn’t see the implications or the possibilities.
A recent question from a student made me realise that, along with the advent of “big data”, internet users have moved into a new era. There is now a significant number of people who do realise the implications, but they simply don’t care – furthermore, they resent the protests of those who complain about lack of privacy.
For publishers and other website owners, whether they agree or disagree with privacy protectors or not is a secondary consideration. At most, some will decide not to pursue certain business practices and they may promote that as a benefit to their users with varying degrees of success. The primary reason they need to care is that the privacy wars – battles between the corporations using data and governments legislating to protect privacy – will affect their businesses.
We have seen this Australian Privacy Laws and the more recent European Cookie Law. Not only do you need to choose to comply (or not) with these laws if you target audiences in these countries, they can have an effect on the attitudes of your website users. If your business model is reliant on a practice that falls foul of the laws, you could find your investment washed away. This makes it a risk-assessment decision rather than a moral one.