“Consent is a trap,” said Chris Hoofnagle, Director of Information Privacy Programs at the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology. “It’s more than notices and opt-in and opt-out,” he said, adding that details like how a consumer’s information might be used isn’t always made clear, nor how long it might be kept.
“Do these things protect consumers? I’m not so sure,” he said. “It’s got to the point that the medium itself is poisoned and consumers feel unsure about being tracked online.”
Hoofnagle said advertisers’ thirst for ever more personal information about consumers is misplaced, though that hasn’t stopped them from looking for ways to glean increasing amounts of data.
“It never seems to be enough and I’m not sure there is a magic sweet spot of enough information,” he said. “Even if they had all your information, I think we’ll find that the deeper you go the less you get out of it.” He also said consumers aren’t necessarily gaining much by opting out, since, for instance, online ad networks have to know who a user is to avoid collecting information on them. You can decline that, but you still get tracked, so you’re really getting the worst of both worlds,” he said. “You’re still tracked and you’re not getting the ads,” which he added may have some relevance.