Digital Privacy Twister

 

Yes, Twister.  The fun, bright colored game where you get twisted up with all your friends and would-be teenage loves.  Actually, the rules of Twister are more clear than the twisted Privacy policies that dot the Web these days – which in my opinion, are less about privacy and more about making money.  The only choice I typically get is no privacy or don’t use my Web service.

It is impossible to ignore the increase in coverage regarding digital data privacy.  Today’s Wall Street Journal headline about Google bypassing iPhone Privacy Settings may just be the fateful move that brings everyone playing Digital Privacy Twister crashing down to the mat.

But before jumping to any “Google is the new Evil Empire” conclusions, have a look at this hurried, yet thoughtful post by Technology Media blogger, John Battelle, A Sad State of Internet Affairs:  The Journal of Google, Apple and “Privacy”.  Battelle, rightfully questions whether or not the default “privacy settings” in iOS are designed to protect yours and my privacy rights or protect Apple’s advertising revenues.

Sadly, the rules about Internet Privacy are simply not clear and even those being debated and proposed by the best minds in the space have to consider the impact changes will have on established business models and legitimate uses for data sharing between organizations. Privacy is about balancing the rights of you and me, as citizens (not just consumers) and a business’s right to make money.  If you mandate technology changes to stop privacy abuses, then how that impacts legitimate data use and sharing MUST be considered or you start ripping apart the very fabric of the Web – the mat holding all the brightly colored website dots together.

Maybe we are too smart for or own good.  I bet if you asked your children, they would say something wonderfully simple like, “Just ask me my permission.” or, “I’ll tell you if I trust you.”  Or perhaps, “Your a stranger.  Until I know you better I won’t tell you my name or where I live.”  Instead of trying to re-weave the Web and break what works, why not just ask the user.  Give them the Choice to share or not to share with any given site.  Give them a Choice about what to share – location, but not name.  Device information, but not cell phone number.  Privacy is not binary.  Privacy cannot be “solved.”  Privacy is a right.  Ask permission (in a simple, straightforward manner) and then respect it.  Period.

Digital Privacy should be about delivering the appropriate Web Experience base on what is shared, not taken.  An anonymous experience or a rich experience, or something in between. It should be MY choice and should not be all or nothing.  People like choice.  When you deny that choice based upon less than transparent practices and policies, people get really angry. Angry people stop doing business with you and tell all their friends.

 

 

BYOD – Bring Your Own Demographics

For the very first time, today I visited an ad-supported blog and noticed that with 100% accuracy, I was served ads for things I was looking at over the past few weeks – business and personal – all mixed together.  Cool, right?  Relevant right?  Well not exactly. Too late boys & girls – I’ve moved on.  Looking for different things now (bought/renewed all I was going to).

Being me, I decided to click on the DAA’s Ad Choice icon and then through to Google’s ad profile/privacy manager page to check things out.  I will say that having the icon does make it easier to find, review and edit your Google profile.  For that much I am grateful – thank you Google and the DAA.

But wait.  Much to my surprise I found out I am 35 – 44 year old male!  Really?  Guess I’ll need a few things – maybe some ballroom jeans?  I’d order up some “online goodies” if I knew what they were (even Wikipedia, doesn’t know).  What do you think – a bearskin or zebra shag rug for my bachelor pad?  They don’t assign a marital status, but what are the odds that I’m married if I’m looking for a job, totally into money, playing with electronics and hanging out online with my 1500 closet friends?

My Google Ad Profile as of Today:

Google Ad ProfileBottom line, Google’s ad network does not know me.

My categories are accurate, but their profiling assumptions need some work.  Am I interested in computers & electronics or do I work in the IT industry?  As a marketer, I think that matters – it goes to intent to buy – or not.  I’m not looking for a job, I use job listings as triangulation points to see what industries are equipping mobile workers with tablets and smartphones (it’s becoming a recruitment perk and helps mitigate the other BYOD issues).  Somehow they missed all my travel research – now those ads I might actually respond to.

 

Because online consumer privacy management is so binary (track/do not track) and most businesses are not yet using our Choice browser,  I guess I’ll just hit Johnny’s Cigar Bar, hang with the boys plan a 45th birthday golf trip to Hawaii while I wait for my online, transgender surgery to be reversed.   Later…

So you want increased Web Performance & Privacy – Then “Know Before You Go”

 

… To Send a Response

 

What does that mean?

Well in layman’s terms the Web is nothing more than 2 cans and a piece of string. One can (the device) sends a message (request) to the other can (the server). It then responds to the request. And that’s how the Internet works.

So what if the device sending a request to the server sent along a “little extra data”? What kind of data? How about a little more information about Who I am, What my Device is capable of doing and Where I am.

Well now the server would have more context before it needs to send a response. So instead of sending down extra data it would respond with exactly what I want, what works on my device and is relevant for my current location.

Now lets translate this into Performance gains…

Fewer boxes

 

So what about Privacy.

Well for that we have a secure database on the device. It encrypts all of your Who, What and Where data. And it allows you to control exactly what gets sent to who. Here’s what it looks like on Android and iPhone.

image

 

Summary…

The database integrates into the browser. It’s job is to send “a little extra data” with the Request. The server takes this information into account BEFORE it:

….Sends a Response

The results is a Faster more Private Web Experience

The Complete Solution to making the Web go Faster.

Yesterday I wrote a blog about why web optimization is NOT the complete solution to making the Web go faster.

I promised that in my next post I would talk about the complete solution to making the Web go faster.

So here goes.

Let’s start with a couple of assumptions (I know, always dangerous but bear with me):

  • You have the MOST optimized Web site on the planet. It passes every known test out there
  • Your goal is to make it so that content gets to the device 30% faster with more relevance

There’s ONLY ONE way to get content there 30% faster, and that’s to send “less content”. And there’s ONLY ONE way to send less content and that’s to have MORE CONTEXT about the connecting device. There I’ve said it. You have to reduce the size of your content, and at the same time make it more relevant to the context of the person that is connecting to your service.

So all that remains is the HOW do I do that? Well you need to improve the functionality of the browser. (Whilst preserving the customers privacy which we’ll get to a little later). So how can you improve the browser (and remain true to existing Web standards)?

Step one is to use a plugin, also known as a browser extension. This is the “approved” approach by all OEM browser manufacturers (except Google’s Android smartphone) to extending the functionality of the browser.

Step two – you need more context so you can drive relevance. How do you do that? We can just use an app for this portion. We can create a secure database (wallet) that stores the customers personal information, their devices capabilities and their current location. Each item is stored as a “field” and can be turned on or off with a simple checkbox. This is so the user remains in control of their privacy.

Ok – we now have two industry standard components – a way to interact with the browser, and a way to interact with the device. You join those two together and you have real time context. Only one last problem to solve – how do I get the data to the server using approved standards?

Fortunately the W3C has already thought of that. They have something called an X header – it’s a “standard” way to send “non-standard” data to the server. Great we can use that. We’ll encrypt the headers (approved by the W3C) and send the data to the server. All we need to do then is decrypt it using a simple script and we have everything we need.

Now we’re in great shape. For the first time we have a way to augment the HTTP protocol and add some very powerful information that can be used to help manage performance (among other things).

So instead of having to rely on the Web server to send down a bunch of JavaScript to figure out where the device is, or what the device is capable of, or what the user would like to see an Advertisement about, we now get that information BEFORE we have to send the Web page.

So what does all this look like schematically?

  • Using the X header approach we use one transmission up and one down – total 2
  • Using the current approach we use 8
  • That’s a 75% improvement (and we’re only looking for 30%)

2011-08-09_12-28-41

Summary…

  • We’ve optimized our Web server/service
  • We’ve now used STANDARDS to improve the browser
  • What we can now do is optimize the “relevancy” of the content to make it more personal
  • Finally we have a complete end to end client server solution that uses all approved standards

What does all of this achieve? You’ve cut down on the number of requests a Web server has to process, you’ve reduced the content size to EXACTLY conform to the devices capabilities AND you’ve personalized the CONTENT so the customer finds it compelling. And if you’ve delivered a personalized advertisement, there’s now a much bigger likelihood that the customer will click on it. Which in turn increases the amount of revenue for your Web service. And of course it’s much, much faster.

Optimizing a Web site WITHOUT optimizing for the browsers (user, device and location) is like driving a Ferrari with VW engine. No matter what you do, it’s never going to get there quickly.

Why the Browser Matters

I borrowed the title from “Ben’s Blog”, however the content is going to be a little different.

Why does the browser matter?

  1. It’s simple to use. Ask anyone if they know A) What a browser is & B) how to use it and the answer will be “Yes”
  2. It’s cross platform, meaning that no matter what device you’re on, the browser works the same way
  3. It connects to the Web in a way that is universally understood

In short, you have an “app” that is universally understood, works the same way on every platform and delivers content in a consistent and easy to view fashion. No other app can make that claim and that’s why the “Browser Matters”.

But let’s not stop there. Let’s look at the other side of the coin:

Why does the Web Matter?

  1. The Web is simple.
  2. The Web is flexible and forgiving. (The browser ignores things that it doesn’t understand).
  3. The Web is heterogeneous, which means it works on all platforms. (Not just Windows)
  4. The Web is loosely coupled. Most previous computing architectures required tight integration between the “server” program that stores the data and the “Client” program which manipulates it. In contrast there is no need to upgrade the Web browser every time a Web publisher changes a site. Server and Client are loosely coupled.

No other platform can make that claim and that’s why the “Web matters”.

So what does the Enterprise want?

  • One Interface – the Browser (see Why the Browser Matters)
  • One Platform – the Web (see Why the Web Matters)
  • Access to Multiple Data Sets – the Context (because that’s where all the customers data is)

It’s the last one that is the driving factor behind new revenue opportunities and ultimately why the Browser (& the Web is becoming more important and valuable every day).

Ben’s article talks about the importance of the Browser and about a company called Rockmelt which just raised another $30m dollars to improve their browser. He goes on to talk about how Rockmelt is focusing on 4 major items:

  1. People – it’s all about “social”
  2. Information Flow – it’s all about “feeds”
  3. Search – it’s all about “better search”
  4. Multiple Computing devices – It’s all about the cloud (storing my bookmarks, history, configuration in the cloud)

Totally agree, and everyone of those features is already available in the current browsers – well you might have to open up another tab but that’s about it. So if Rockmelt got $30m to improve the browser (because it matters)… what else might need improving while you’re in the code.

Well how about looking back at what the Enterprise wants, One Interface, One Platform and access to Multiple Data Sets (databases). Why is this so important – a single word sums it up – Money

They’re looking to leverage all the data that’s sitting in those databases. They know that customers the world over all know how to use a browser, and because it ships on every device there’s always a way to reach out and touch your customer.

So if all this matters so much what’s missing from the browser?

Well we asked a lot of users this very question and it all boiled down to three things:

  1. Convenience
  2. Privacy
  3. Control

Summarized – Give me a better user experience and don’t abuse my privacy, (let me control it).

So the goal now is to align those three things with what the Enterprise wants. And therein lies the things you need to do to really improve the browser.

So what’s missing?

  • How about a secure database where I can store my data (like a wallet)
  • How about a way to integrate this wallet with the browser so I can send my data to trusted Web sites
  • How about a way that I can “control” what gets sent to whom

Seems so simple, but there’s currently no way to do it. Microsoft has started the ball rolling with IE9 and “whitelisted” Web sites but still no real way to control my private data. And while we’re here, lets talk about Mobile for a moment. To me this is where the biggest opportunity lies. We keep these devices with us 24*7. We use them constantly and surprise, surprise – they’re mobile.

And yet to this day the Web really has no idea what the connecting device is really capable of doing.

So if someone offered me $30m to improve the browser I’d focus on the above. Doing so opens up net new revenue opportunities, it offers a way to improve the customers experience, and it offers a way to improve customers privacy.

And I’d put the other $29m in the bank for a rainy day.

You Know what they Say about Assumption?!

I’m a marketer and understand all the good reasons for tracking online behavior.  At 5o9, we’re all about the 3Ps – Performance, Privacy and Personalization.  Ahh… personalization, the holy grail of mobile marketing – but, marketers, beware.  Your good intentions may have unintended consequences, as you’ll learn about in this great TedTalk video from Eli Pariser – “What the Internet knows about you.”

Do your visitors, customers and yourselves a favor.  ASK before you track. ASK about interests and preferences.  If your content is valuable to me, I’ll share personal information in exchange for relevant ads and offers.  ASK before you apply filters to search or social interactions.  Don’t assume that your filters are the filters that your visitors want.  Before you interconnect your content with a large search or content provider, understand how they will process and filter your data and your customer requests.

Personalization is good.  When done right, you send less data and it’s more relevant.  Filtering without my permission is just a nice name for business-sponsored propaganda. Eli talks about Filter Bubbles in his TedTalk and new book.  Improper filtering can reinforce existing behaviors, decrease our exposure to new ideas and openness to change.  From a marketing perspective, it can backfire and limit prospective customers’ access to your new products, content or services.  Filtering can also be good – their is a lot of content to sort through on the Web.  Just be upfront about your filters and make them easy to turn on or off, or to change the settings.

The Web has given us the opportunity to have a two-way, real-time conversation with our customers.  Quit trying to shove everything down from the server and use this amazing technology platform, we call the Web, to start talking with your customers.

Mobile Performance–the tale of the tape

Running some tests this afternoon and thought that these results were interesting.

In case you’re in a hurry – Blaze.io’s results are nearly a second faster than a desktop browser on a 22mbps cable connection!

Methodology:

  • Test link – Steve Souders Cuzillion
  • Test browsers – latest version of Safari and Firefox
  • Performance apps – Web Inspector (Safari) & Firebug (latest version)
  • Connection – Comcast Cable 22mbps
    • Blaze.io – their network connection link

#1 – Safari on an iMac i7

13 GET requests (2 errors) 20.59kbs of data in 4.63 seconds

Safari

#2 – Firefox on an iMac i7

10 GET requests (no errors) 12.6kbs of data in 4.62 seconds

Firefox

#3 – Blaze.io (link to actual test)

11 GET requests, 14.6kbs of data in 3.67 seconds

Blaze