Microsoft’s ‘Do Not Track’ privacy effort at crossroads

Updated 21 November 2012

Microsoft’s ‘Do Not Track’ privacy effort at crossroads

WASHINGTON: A movement by privacy activists to curb tracking of Internet users’ browsing habits scored a major victory last month when Microsoft launched its new browser with “do not track” as the default, or automatic setting.
But some advertisers are in revolt against the move, certain websites are skirting the Microsoft effort and the debate over online privacy and tracking is heating up.
The controversy stems from practices used by websites and marketing partners to track browsing activity to be able to deliver ads targeted to individuals.
The ad industry argues that tracking is done anonymously without violating privacy, but some say it is easy to connect the person’s anonymous IP address or mobile device to a real person.
“It is trivial to make those connections,” says Jim Brock, a former Yahoo executive who now heads a venture called PrivacyFix which offers browser plug-ins for privacy and other services to consumers and businesses.
Websites and mobile device use a variety of software to determine a user’s browsing habits. Marketers can then use that data for “behavioral ads” designed with people’s habits in mind.
In some cases, these electronic tags can predict if a consumer is price-sensitive, allowing sellers to charge more or less for a product or service.
Most Web browsers allow users to activate a “do not track” privacy feature, and Microsoft designed its Internet Explorer 10 with the feature as the default setting.
“We believe consumers should have more control over how data about their online behavior is tracked, shared, and used,” Microsoft chief privacy officer Brendon Lynch said in announcing the move.
Advertisers see the issue differently, arguing that Microsoft should not make the decision for consumers.
The Digital Advertising Alliance, a consortium of the largest US media and marketing associations, told its members they can ignore or override the default settings in Microsoft or other browsers.
“The trade associations that lead the DAA do not believe that Microsoft’s IE10 browser settings are an appropriate standard for providing consumer choice,” said the alliance, which includes the Better Business Bureau.
“Machine-driven do not track does not represent user choice; it represents browser-manufacturer choice.”
Yahoo has also broken ranks with Microsoft, saying it “will not recognize” the “do not track” settings by default.
A Yahoo blog post said Microsoft acted “unilaterally” and that “this degrades the experience for the majority of users and makes it hard to deliver on our value proposition to them.”
Representatives Edward Markey and Joe Barton, who head the House privacy caucus, expressed disappointment over the actions by advertisers and Yahoo, saying they highlight the need for better privacy laws.
“If consumers want to be tracked online, they should have to opt-in, not the other way around,” the two lawmakers said in a statement.
Some analysts argue that wiping out all online tracking would undermine the economic model of the Internet.
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington think tank, recently modified its website to warn visitors with “do not track” enabled with a pop-up message which asks them to enable tracking.


10-year-old Bangladeshi’s communication app creates buzz

Updated 20 January 2020

10-year-old Bangladeshi’s communication app creates buzz

  • “I thought we should have something of our own, which inspired me to start working on my communication app”: Ayman Al-Anam

DHAKA: A Bangladeshi fifth-grader’s new communication app — Lita Free Video Calls and Chat — has created a huge buzz among local internet users. Already, 10,500 people have downloaded the app from the Google Play Store since Saturday.

Ayman Al-Anam submitted the app to Google on Dec. 27. After scrutiny and manual verification, Google uploaded the app on its Play Store on Dec. 31.

 “Currently, Bangladeshi internet users are mostly dependent on apps like WhatsApp, Viber and Imo for communication overseas,” Al-Anam told Arab News.

“I thought we should have something of our own, which inspired me to start working on my communication app.”

It took the 10-year-old 10 months to create the app, which he said he accomplished by himself, without the help of any mentor. “I learned the process through different YouTube tutorials. The rest was just trial and error,” he added.

 The app provides better-quality, high-definition video calls to its users. It also works for transferring big data in a shorter amount of time compared to similar apps.

Al-Anam’s success at such an early age has surprised his parents. “From a very early age, my son had a knack for technology, and I encouraged him to pursue it. He used to spend his free time in front of computers, smartphones and other devices,” said proud father Tauhedush Salam Nishad. “I always supported him, but I never dreamed that he’d see this sort of success so young.”

Recalling the first successful test run of the new app, Nishad said: “One night, I returned home from work and Ayman took my smartphone and installed the raw file of the app. Later, he did the same with his mother’s phone and connected the two devices with a video call. It was the best moment in his life. He shouted with joy, ‘I did it!’” 

Al-Anam named the app after his mother Lita. The young inventor is currently studying at South Point School and College in Chattogram, 248 km from the capital. He dreams of becoming a software engineer and wants to work at Google headquarters.

His creation has drawn much attention from local experts. “We should nurture this sort of extraordinary talent very carefully,” Prof. Mohammad Kaikobad of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology told Arab News.

 “This new generation will lead the technology world of tomorrow if they’re guided and encouraged properly.”