We the People

Last week Wired.com published the results of an investigation involving KISSmetrics and their ethically questionable practice of placing an “undeletable cookie” on users’ computers that allowed users to be tracked across multiple web sites…even when those users did not wish to be tracked.  While the results may have been good, the means used to obtain them were not. So it’s telling and commendable that KISSmetrics customers like Hulu and Spotify immediately suspended their use after being contacted by Wired and learning of the practice.   To see this happen, knowing how much time and energy our digital measurement community has spent developing and evangelizing the Web Analysts Code Of Ethics, is quite troubling.

I was recently at the National Archives in Washington DC, where I stood next to my fellow citizens and viewed the founding documents of our country, and perhaps I am being sentimental about this, but I can’t help but draw some comparisons between the importance of those documents that laid out the values of our system of government and the  WAA Code Of Ethics listed below.

PRIVACY – I agree to hold consumer data in the highest regard and will do everything in my power to keep personally identifiable consumer data safe, secure and private.

TRANSPARENCY – I agree to encourage full disclosure of my clients/employer consumer data collection practices and to encourage communication of how that data will be used in clear and understandable language.

CONSUMER CONTROL – I agree to inform and empower consumers to opt out of my clients/employer data collection practices and to document ways to do this.

EDUCATION – I agree to educate my clients/employer about the types of data collected, and the potential risks to consumers associated with those data.

ACCOUNTABILITY – I agree to act as a steward of customer data and to uphold the consumers’ right to privacy as governed by my clients/employer and applicable laws and regulations.

Make no mistake about it, our industry is facing a multi-headed beast that is threatening to cause severe and lasting damage.  This latest story about another web analytics vendor using shady practices that bypass and ignore the wishes of the user to not be tracked, is very troubling for our industry.   It is bad enough that this practice is going on, but the real danger is the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that this causes. Not convinced? Just read the comments on the article.This reaction to the story and the countless articles that mainstream media will write is the real danger here.  This is the message that the vast majority of the public will consume without getting a chance to hear from our side, from all the folks out there that work very hard in this industry that hold ourselves to a higher standard.   Over two hundred years ago when our fledgling country was also struggling to find itself, a group of dedicated patriots gathered and put together the framework that still guides us today.
We the People  of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Now it is our turn.  We the People of the Digital Measurement community need to work even harder to form our own perfect union.   We have a great start with the Code Of Ethics, now we need to take this process a step further and strive to create a new plan, our own “Constitution” to help govern our industry.  The FTC is already pushing the web browsers to enable a “Do Not Track” feature, and this is just the beginning of federal regulations that will be headed our way if we do not move beyond the “I agree”, and establish what “We” ordain and establish to be our framework to govern ourselves.

So I ask you, the digital measure community, what truths do “We” hold self evident?


Image credit: Chuck “Caveman” Coker