Sunday, November 08, 2009

Calling the Kettle Black

The four-part story on NPR The End of Privacy largely focuses on discrete platforms, such as Facebook, cell phones, digital records, and online data, rather than the British model of the more integrated surveillance society, which also includes public surveillance cameras in the mix. It also caused the station to find itself justifying its own cookie policy on the grounds of the code's preservation of anonymity, a claim that privacy advocates might find dubious, given how easily it is to use web surfing data to tie behavior to an individual.

As one commenter points out, the network's explanations are highly suspect:

The cookies that Mr. Robinson pointed out in his comment are third-party tracking cookies. They are used by advertising companies to profile users and their habits across the internet for marketing purposes; they have nothing whatsoever to do with the usability or functionality of NPR's website. NPR's "response", rather than addressing the issue raised by Mr. Robison, instead tries to shift the attention to first-party cookies -- those which ARE legitimately used for website functionality. NPR does not in any way address the third-party tracking cookies.

It's ironic and angering that on a series having to do with personal privacy and the internet, NPR tries to whitewash their own practices. NPR, of all organizations, ought not to underestimate its audience's intelligence.

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