What we got wrong about online privacy

“We don’t have much consensus on what online privacy actually means, and most of what’s on the table conflicts fundamentally with competition,” writes tech thought leader and GDI speaker Benedict Evans in a blog post.

Benedict Evans

After years of the online advertising industry honing behavioural tracking to perfection, the days of cookies now appear to be numbered. Apple and Google are spearheading a new privacy league of tech giants – or so it seems. However, we have yet to establish a common understanding of what ‘private’ even means, writes tech thought leader Benedict Evans. He asks: “Even if the tech works and the industry can get to some kind of consensus behind any such project (both very big questions), would this really be private? What does it do to competition? What counts as ‘private’, and how can you build ‘private’ systems if we don’t know?”

According to Evans, Apple, for example, claims that as long as they only track our behaviour on our devices, they are maintaining privacy. “But acting on the same theory Apple also created a scanning system that it thought was entirely private – ‘it only happens on your device!’ – that created a huge privacy backlash, because a bunch of other people think that if your phone is scanning your photos, that isn’t ‘private’ at all,” Evans writes. He asks: “Why should it be OK for a website to track what you do on that website, but not OK for adtech companies to track you across multiple different sites?”

Read Benedict Evans’ full blog post here.

Bendict Evans spoke at the 71st International Retail Summit:

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