27 April 2021

Baekdal Plus: “What do I mean when I talk about privacy and tracking?”

So regardless of how much people don’t want to be tracked, transaction data is always tracked as a requirement by law. But, again, this isn’t actually a problem. Transaction data doesn’t violate people’s privacy as long as it is kept first-party. It’s only when a shop starts to share or sell that data to others that it becomes a problem.

So privacy absolutism is not actually a thing.

However, this again links back to what I said earlier. We need to change the way we talk about these things. The problem isn’t actually with tracking. Sure, there are bad things with that too, but tracking as a concept is what creates better products.

The real problem is the destinations. Having a health app track how you are doing is great. But having a health app which then shares my health data with 300 outside companies is bad.

Thomas Baekdal

Arguments about online tracking and privacy have been around for years, and the debate has become more heated recently as Apple and Facebook have come to represent these opposing sides: Apple predominantly on the side of privacy absolutism (although their public messages rarely stand up to scrutiny) and Facebook defending the current ad-supported, tracking-rich Internet. As outlined in the article above, a fair compromise is between these extremes: without tracking, online transactions are virtually impossible, but information gathered between customer and website should remain with this company alone, not be shared with hundreds of third parties.

The major problem with abolishing ads and first-party tracking is that a large part of the Internet would simply not exist without this ‘free (with ads)’ model. The average smartphone user has hundreds of apps installed – does anyone honestly believe people would install and use so many if all apps would require payments, or even monthly subscriptions? Would you pay subscriptions for: an email account, a calendar app, reminders, a weather app, maps, messaging, dating apps, news, social networks, and the list could go on. Most services would simply lose many of their customers if they would enforce a paid model – and the people would likely migrate towards larger companies (including Apple), who can afford to build several products and bundle them in a single subscription for a discounted price.

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