I enjoy reading the Tech Liberation Front blog, even though I am far less sure that the “privacy” free market is working as well as the TLF bloggers contend. But the writers are often witty, sharp and entertaining and are deeply immersed in privacy issues. It has been nice getting to know Berin Szoka, TLF blogger and Progress and Freedom Foundation fellow, and I look forward to some spirited sparring with him at next weeks Capitol Hill PFF event Regulating Online Advertising.
Berin recently blogged about a favorite DC yogurt shop, Mr Yogato’s, which gives patrons a discount if they allow a promotional “stamp” on their foreheads. He makes the point that there is “no free lunch” and that online the trade consumers make for free content is that they are shown advertising.
Berin is correct, of course, there is no free lunch. Online, data supported advertising is part of the trade-off for free content. But to use the Mr Yogato analogy, here is what is happening online – consumers are having a cookie ID number quietly stamped on the back on their necks, aren’t told about any discount for their yogurt purchase, and then policymakers are told that all is fair because yogurt shops would go out of business if they couldn’t earn revenue by tracking or marketing to users in this manner.
I think much of the consumer and legislative concern about tracking would dissipate if more online companies would be as upfront with their customers as Mr. Yogato is with his. Some of us are happy to have our forehead stamped, some prefer to answer trivia questions and others will pay full fare.
Would you allow your forehead to be stamped in return for a discount? My wife says she would, but I am still thinking about it.