Jim Sterne just posted on the WAA blog about privacy and disclosure. While I agree with him and Seth Godin that you need to get users to opt-in to recieving email, I don’t think the same holds true with web metrics provided they are anonymous.
Yahoo is requiring and enforing that websites who are using their web analytics tool disclose this fact to their visitors, and provide an opt-out link for those who wish to not be tracked. Poppy-cock! That is absolute rubbish. Users can already refuse or delete cookies, and with a tool like webtrends I could analyze the weblogs. So if I really want the data I am going to get it.
Not to mention that you are in my house. It’s my website. I am not tracking you as person, I am tracking you as a visit or unique visitor. When I go to a museum they don’t ask me if I wish for my visit to be recorded or not, it just is. They need to count the number of visitors to figure out budgeting and administration. I need to record visits to optimize my site.
Bigger issues lie in privacy issues such as packet sniffing and ISPs messing with bandwidth. Google and Yahoo handing over personal information to government is a far bigger danger than if I record that you looked at this post and then left. Remember Shi Tao anyone? The man that was jailed for 10 years in China after Yahoo handed his personal information to the Chinese government, all in the name of big business. Having Yahoo tell me I have to be open about privacy issues smacks of more than a little hypocrisy.
While privacy is absolutely integral to what we do in web analytics, this measure is needless work. Most people won’t understand what it means. Ever try to explain what it is you do at a dinner party?
Unless a site is specifically recording me – Dave Hamel as a visitor then I don’t care what they do. I don’t think there can be an expectation of privacy when you are on the web so rather than providing needless measures and promises, maybe we should just be educating people that the web never forgets; that everything you do can and is being tracked.