window shop - as many people do when walking down the High Street - you
would be justifiably concerned if each time you glanced in a store window
someone stepped forward and took your photograph, looked through your wallet
and any other items you were carrying at the time (including any shopping
you'd picked up from other stores) and then not only stored the information
permanently on file but began selling it to other people, some of whom
clearly had criminal intent.
My view is that websites
on the Internet are in the same position as store windows: they're a way
of presenting your wares (ideas, thoughts, skills, products, whatever)
to passers-by. If, as a window shopper, you go past the front window
and step inside the store, unless you buy something you're still window
shopping as far as I'm concerned.
When you fill in and
submit an order form on a web page, then you've gone beyond being a window
shopper and the site may arguably record certain information about you
- but I feel very strongly that that should happen only with your
explicit and fully informed permission.
I wish I could say that
was the norm (to obtain permission first - and I don't mean a blanket permission,
but a specific permission every time something is going to be taken from
you), but it isn't - and that's despite the existence of groups like Truste.
I have a very strong
view on so-called "opt-out" lists. Nowhere in the rest of our culture
can I think of anything that is as execrable as is this practice.
When was the last time
you went to a restaurant and were served a "default" meal that you didn't
ask for, just because you didn't say at the door "No default meal for me,
Civilized countries have
stopped the nasty practice of companies sending unsolicited products through
the mail to consumers. We also need to recognize the importance of
stamping out the cancer that is the "opt-out" mailing list before it makes
the Internet totally unusable.
One reason I'm hot under
the collar about loss of privacy is because Yahoo! recently released lots
of my personal contact information without my permission (by creating a
set of "Preferences" and setting them all to a default such that I lost
my privacy on the Web for more than one email account, for part of my snailmail
address and even my home telephone number).
In my view this was abusive
behavior and if anyone ever decides to pursue a class action against Yahoo!
I'll join it so fast I'll violate the basic laws of Relativity.
Privacy is like virginity
- lose it once and it's lost for ever.