Opt-ins, opt-outs, and everything in between

Earlier this week, Google’s Senior Policy Counsel Nicklas Lundblad and Policy Manager Betsy Masiello published a paper called “Opt-in dystopias” in SCRIPTed, a Journal of Law, Technology & Society.

In their paper, Nicklas and Betsy explore how forcing opt-ins for online data collection could have unintended consequences that are not beneficial for user privacy. Partially-informed opt-ins that ask for excessive data, for example, could actually be more harmful for users’ privacy than better-designed, more intuitive and granular opt outs.

Nicklas and Betsy argue that focusing on the opt-in versus opt-out debate as a black-and-white matter creates false choices for users. Instead, they make the case that it’s better to have a structure in which online data collection is an ongoing negotiation between users and service providers. Although they don’t focus on advertising, their paper is timely given recent industry discussions about data collection in the online advertising world. To read more, you can download the entire paper here.