Close the Curtains (on the Internet)

We lock our doors, we close our curtains and if we’re polite people, we even leave the room when we get a phone call. We do this all in the name of privacy. But there’s one part of our lives where some are blissfully unaware of their complete lack of privacy: the Internet.

Apple was recently publicly lambasted after it was discovered that some products actually had a hidden feature that tracked where its user had been. It’s not immediately clear that this data was leaving the custody of the phone; but once customers found this out, they seemed to largely be placated.

For advertisers, this ability to know where their customers are based on their phone is extremely valuable. It’s a glimpse into who they are and what they do – it’s the perfect way to target advertising. And, for the most part, users seem to enjoy it. If my phone knew from my movement that I frequented a certain restaurant and some keen advertisements offered me specials from that restaurant, you bet I’d take them.

Advertisers in the US currently enjoy relative freedom in this realm of mobile advertising, but in Europe? Companies there must now ask for permission from consumers before putting cookies on their computer, which is how sites can track information about you and your viewing habits. Advertisers here worry that these restrictions might cross the pond and hinder their ability to learn more about their targets. In essence, the curtains would be closed on the phones and computers.

Many phone applications which do use location information currently ask if users would like to allow this, so users can opt in (or out) when they like. As such a relatively new form of advertising, a lot of changes and regulations could still take place. For the time being, how do you respond: do you opt in, or opt out?