Do We Need a Privacy Bill of Rights?

There’s a lot of chatter in the blogosphere about Nate Weiner’s recent experience with Facebook Beacon. Nate was playing the desktop tower defense game by Kongregate when the following alert box popped up on his screen:

Beacon - Kongregate Screenshot

I guess Nate has finally seen what Facebook Beacon is. While it was clearly stated a couple of days ago what Facebook Beacon is, people are just starting to interact with it. The real question is if Beacon will receive as much backlash as the newsfeed did when it was initially introduced. My bet is that it won’t initially, but the new service definitely has significant privacy implications. The concept that Facebook is tracking our actions across the web is a somewhat scary concept.

Let’s be honest though, Google is doing the same thing. In thinking about the new Facebook Beacon service I began wondering if Google is tracking what sites we visit via their adwords system. According to the Google privacy policy:

When you use Google services, our servers automatically record information that your browser sends whenever you visit a website. These server logs may include information such as your web request, Internet Protocol address, browser type, browser language, the date and time of your request and one or more cookies that may uniquely identify your browser.

The cookie technology that I previously suggested Facebook would eventually use appears to be something that Google is already using. Google is in the business of indexing as much information as humanly possible and you can bet that they are tracking where you are surfing. For those that have Gmail, Google Reader or any other Google service, you have to assume that Google is tracking information about each site that you visit that uses Google adwords for monetization purposes.

Given that Google is the industry standard for site monetization, you can bet that Google knows a lot about your site traffic patterns. While they might not attribute that traffic information to you personally (e.g. Nick O’Neill visits Feld Thoughts frequently), they do know what sites you frequent as a generic entity (e.g. user 933523435 visits The Webpreneur regularly). While this is not confirmed by Google, they have every right to do this under their privacy policy.

My point here is that this is not a new practice. What needs to happens is some sort of privacy bill or rights for internet users. Otherwise, large behemoths like Google (and eventually Facebook) can tell you to go use someone else’s services if you don’t want to be tracked. I would argue that it is a challenging task (if not impossible) to avoid interaction with Google while browsing the web. A similar situation may occur if Facebook’s growth stays constant. Do you think we should develop a privacy bill of rights for internet users?