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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

Protecting Privacy


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On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog but advertisers may infer that you own one. The flow of information from users of the internet both to social networks such as Facebook and to advertisers and advertising networks has turned into a flood.

There is nothing wrong in principle with advertisers using data about people based on their browsing habits. Such information enables them to place more relevant adverts—ones that are more likely to be of interest—on the sites that people visit. If executed correctly, that can benefit not only publishers but their customers.

Two privacy safeguards are vital, however. One is that these data are anonymised, so that a network knows a user’s age and sex, and perhaps that he or she is interested in buying a car, but not the user’s identity. The second is that people know what is going on and grant their consent.

From The Financial Times
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