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Do Not Track and “Don’t be evil”

Aaron Swartz has written a really excellent post on what Google means by “Don’t be evil”. His conclusion is that in essence, it means “don’t make things worse for your users simply to make money”.

In the conversation, Chris Soghoian pointed to Google’s refusal to implement Do-Not-Track on its browsers or servers as a violation of this. I’m not so sure it is. I’d actually argue that not implementing do-not-track is, from Google’s perspective, acting in the user’s best interests.

Here’s how the argument goes: the web runs on ads. Ads can either be irrelevant, or relevant. Irrelevant ads waste the time of the user, and the money of the advertiser. They’re useless to the user. Relevant ads, on the other hand, are actually useful to the user – being delivered a good offer or product at the right time, when you’re actually interested in that product category, is useful.

Hence, do-not-track, which prevents Google and others making ads more relevant (and thus useful) is user-hostile.

I’m not saying that I think that argument is right, but I think it’s a rational argument – and a consistent one with “don’t be evil”.

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  • http://loud.anotherquietday.com Baldur

    Do-not-track is pretty much going to be EU regulation. It’s either that or opt-in cookies. Google will have to choose between the two, IMO.

  • http://abrah.am Abraham Williams

    Google did build a Chrome extension for opting out of ad tracking: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/hhnjdplhmcnkiecampfdgfjilccfpfoe

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    That’s not quite the same as DNT – basically, that extension opts you out of cookies for personalised ads, but doesn’t opt you out from having your online behaviour tracked – so, for example, Google could still use cookie tracking of your online behaviour in order to personalise your search results. 

    Not that it’s a bad thing, just slightly different.