How much is your online privacy worth?


padlockFirefox has announced that this summer it will be changing the default privacy settings on the browser so it only accepts cookies from sites that you visited personally.

This means that, for the average user who doesn’t change their settings, cookies from third-party ad tracking services won’t be enabled. This is intended to improve the privacy of users of Firefox. IE and Safari have also announced increased privacy protections. Not surprisingly Google, which makes its living from online advertising, has not.

Online privacy is all well and good. But restricting cookies in this way is going to make it significantly harder for online advertisers. And that’s going to make it harder for many websites to make money.

As I see it, there are three main ways we can pay for the astonishing amount of information that is now available on the Internet:

  • Running ads on sites and before video content, etc., and the more accurately the ads can be targeted to the interests of the individual user the more likely it is that they’ll make money from those ads.
  • Subscription fees, such as for the Wall Street Journal and New York Times sites.
  • Buy products from the companies so it’s worthwhile for them to continue to provide the information.

The first of these requires you to give up some online privacy for it to be successful, and the others require you to shell out money.

And that’s it. Because one way or another, sites that provide valuable content need to make money from that content.

Personally, I don’t mind targeted ads. In fact, I would rather see ads for things that I’m interested in than see wildly untargeted ads (no, I’m not a Christian single). Our real world purchases are tracked by credit card companies, stores, banks, etc., and they use and sell that information all the time. So I am willing to give up some online privacy rather than always pay for content. Anyway, I basically agree with the comment a dozen years ago of Sun Microsystem’s CEO, Scott McNealy, who famously said, ‘Privacy is dead. Get over it.”

But that’s just me. How would you like to pay for your Internet?

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