You didn’t even realise how bad clicking ‘accept’ can be

Happy Data Privacy Day! Bet you didn’t even know that was a ‘thing’? To be honest I didn’t know it was a ‘day’ until just recently. And according to our wonderful P2P information hub, Wikipedia,

Data Privacy Day’s educational initiative originally focused on raising awareness among businesses as well as users about the importance of protecting the privacy of their personal information online, particularly in the context of social networking. The educational focus has expanded over the past four years to include families, consumers and businesses.

But in reality, every day should be data privacy day. Every day you should be more engaged, aware and smarter about how you move through the online, digital world. You should take more care of knowing what data you create, where it exists, who has access to it and importantly who gets to monetise and benefit from that data.

The sad thing is that for too long now, you have not had control of your data. Others have generated billions in profits from you and all you got for it was a lousy service and a bunch of ads trying to sell you more crap you don’t need.

Something has to give. And perhaps the most important topic of the next decade will be about your personal data, who owns it, who controls it and who gets to profit from it.

You just said yes to 465 vendors

The problem we face is real, it’s dangerous, and it’s in your face every single day. Most of the time you don’t even realise that it impacts your life day to day, but we’re here to tell you, it does.

Next time you’re on a website take note of those pop-ups that ask you about your cookie preferences. You know the pop ups I’m talking about, we get them every day. And it’s not just an occasional website anymore.

Thanks to the 2018 GDPR laws now every website asks you about your cookie preferences. But it’s a massive joke. The average user (and even I’m guilty of this) will simply click on accept and be done with it, it’s just one more barrier stopping us getting to the site we’re after.

But have you stopped to check what those cookies really do?

Here’s what we faced on a website we were looking at recently,

We care about your privacy.

We use cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and to show you content and advertising that is relevant to you. You can change your consent choices at any time in your privacy settings.

We were then presented with three options. The first was a tiny, faded colour hyperlink ‘Cookie Policy’. The second was a white button with black border (on a white background of the pop-up) and in grey text, ‘Settings’. The third option with a big bright, flouro green button, ‘Accept’. Note, there was no option to ‘Reject’.

It’s not hard to tell which option they’d prefer you clicked on…

From here on it just got amusing.

The first hyperlink took me to the Cookie Policy site. Except on the landing page with the full policy, was another pop-up! This pop up read,

We care about your privacy.

We use cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and to show you content and advertising that is relevant to you. You can change your consent choices at any time by updating your privacy settings.

Déjà vu? Lo-and-behold I had another set of choices. ‘Cookie Policy’, ‘Settings’ and ‘Accept’.

This was quickly starting to become ‘Cookie Inception’.

This roundabout you can’t get off unless you choose the settings button or the accept button. There was no way to get rid of the pop-up without blanket accepting the policy anyway or going through all the detail…so we did.

We decided to check out these ‘settings’ and see what was needed. Well…we were then led to a new pop up. This one had seven settings headings:

  • Information Storage and Access
  • Personalization
  • Ad selection, delivery, reporting
  • Measurement
  • Content selections, delivery, reporting
  • Social Media Consents
  • Vendor Consents

 

The first six of those were all about the collection, storage, analysis usage and personalisation about the way in which you use their website and service. You can of course spend the time going through each tab and turning off each of these. But the vendor consents is where things get really terrifying.

When you agree to the cookies on this site, you’re also giving consent to 465 other vendors you’ve never heard of. That’s right folk, when you blindly agree to the one website cookies, you’re also giving vendor consent to 465 others.

You can of course choose to go through the privacy policy of every single one of those 465 vendors and choose to turn off consent for each one. You can also turn off the consent for them all in one go. But that of course assumes you’ve even made it this far down the privacy rabbit hole.

Of course the easy thing and the thing that most people do on every website they visit is just click accept. These policies are set up to trap you into an option where you have no choice but to accept – because no rational human in their right mind is going to go through every cookie policy, 465 privacy policies for vendors they’ve never heard of just to visit one single website page. And you’re not going to go through this time-wasting rigmarole every single time you get a new cookie pop-up.

The internet, frankly, is broken.

What’s incredibly frustrating is that almost all of these pop-ups don’t have a ‘Reject’ button. And if they do, they often then stop you from using the site altogether.

Now we can’t of course assume that every cookie permission on every site adds an extra 465 vendor consents. But we are aware this kind of thing isn’t exactly uncommon.

Imagine visiting just 10 websites and blindly cookie permissions…and handing out over four thousand consents to companies around the world to collect, store and analyse your online behaviours. We’re pretty confident that you’ve visited more than 10 sites today alone.

This all adds up, and over a lifetime you give away a volume of personal data that’s simply unfathomable. The worst part about it is that you probably don’t even realise it. And all those companies that collect, analyse and store data about you profit from it. They use that data to make money, to sell you things, to find every way possible to squeeze a dollar or pound of euro out of you.

But that’s just the non-malicious parties online. There’s also a whole range of companies, people, state organisations that want your data to influence you. They will put information in front of you to shape how you think, what you think about and importantly the decisions you make.

We know this is the case thanks to the recent examples of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. And the ongoing study of fake groups and (it’s a real thing) fake news that pops up on social media is opening our eyes to the pervasion of our personal data.

This kind of behaviour online shouldn’t be allowed. But for decades we’ve been handing over personal data hand over fist, most of the time oblivious to the fact.

The internet, rebuilt

That tide is changing though. It’s a slow change, like a giant ocean liner doing a three point turn…but it’s changing. And one of the new technologies that’s helping to right these wrongs is blockchain, distributed ledger technology and crypto tokens.

One of the benefits of blockchain technology is the ability to create an immutable record of all transactions. This means you can trace back every single transaction on a blockchain right back to the beginning. In effect a transaction can be a transaction of data from A to B. Sometimes that data comes in the form of a token, and we see this often on blockchain’s like Ethereum’s.

It’s a big part of why LIFElabs and the LIFEtoken holds such potential to reshape the world of charitable giving – it can provide complete and utter transparency to know precisely where a contribution on the blockchain travels.

While that kind of public record is a benefit, it can also be a problem. Think about the transaction of data, or in this case personally identifiable data. You wouldn’t want the entire world to have a public record of your bank account, address, date of birth, and medical history, would you?

Of course not. That kind of data is personal, private, important, valuable. Therefore there’s no way you’d want that data to exist on a public record. So how do we utilise the benefits of blockchain, distributed ledger technology, the potential for mass scale with public blockchains but also ensure the protection and security of personal information?

Right now, there’s no concrete answer to that question. But what we do know is that there are projects out there working on ways to use blockchain technology and crypto tokens to rebuild an online world where we can operate freely while keeping our personal data private, safe and secure.

Two examples of crypto projects trying to figure this out are the Enigma project and the Basic Attention Token in conjunction with the Brave Browser. We’re not going to go into a deep-dive into these projects other than to say they’re trying to fix the problems of how to manage our personal data online so that we retain control of it – the way it should be.

You can read more on each of these at https://enigma.co/ and https://basicattentiontoken.org/

The battle for your personal data is real and its happening now. Crypto-based projects are working furiously to find ways to rebuilt a world where we can control that data. The way it stands right now the internet is broken, flawed, and we all need to be more conscious of how we exist in the online world looking to suck every byte of personal data out of us.

Be smart, be safe, and be reassured that the world is changing fast, and its crypto community that’s reshaping how the future is going to look.

 

Regards,

Sam

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