Two years ago, sitting in the airplane after attending Emetrics 05 Santa Barbara (and having to leave early), I penned a letter to organizer Jim Sterne, asking him if he’d bring up some issues around web data privacy at the first Web Analytics Association general meeting. Turns out he didn’t get my email until after the meeting, but it resonated with him and he circulated it within the WAA.
Nothing came of that initial email, but Jim didn’t forget it. A year ago, he asked if I’d be interested in a speaking slot at Emetrics ’06 Santa Barbara to talk about web privacy issues, which I gladly accepted. Not only did Jim invite me to speak, he put me on first – presumably in order to help set the tone for the summit. I got a good reception, but again, nothing really came of it.
This year I’ll be at Emetrics 07 San Francisco, and while I’m not speaking, I still think the issue deserves consideration. In fact, I think it’s more front and center than ever, with items such as Google’s recent announcement that they’ll be anonymizing their search logs after 18-24 months.
Against this backdrop, and in the spirit of keeping this alive, here’s the original email I sent to Jim, verbatim:
I boiled the essence of this letter into a PowerPoint presentation that I used at Emetrics last year. The presentation is purposefully without any fancy design in order that the message be front and center. You have my permission to do what you want with it. During the Q & A after the talk, I said I could imagine a cataclysmic event that would set into motion things like congressional hearings on data privacy. I referred to it as the Chernobyl of Data. Fortunately, it hasn’t happened, and of course I hope it doesn’t. But I continue to be concerned about a head-in-the-sand mentality within the web analytics community, and what it will ultimately mean once the hammer comes down – in any form.
I’m interested in your thoughts. Is it time to join together as an industry to tackle this?