The week in quotes (2019W34)

Sebastian Greger

After a three-month break, largely due to an ongoing overhaul of this website (these things always take longer than anticipated), my - more or less - weekly collection of interesting, inspiring and thought-provoking quotes is back:

Seasoned privacy researchers Jonathan Mayer and Arvind Narayanan thoroughly dissect and debunk Google’s latest attempt of privacy gaslighting:

If the benchmark is original design intent, let’s be clear: cookies were not supposed to enable third-party tracking, and browsers were supposed to block third-party cookies. We know this because the authors of the original cookie technical specification said so (RFC 2109, Section 4.3.5).

Similarly, if the benchmark is user privacy expectations, let’s be clear: study after study has demonstrated that users don’t understand and don’t want the pervasive web tracking that occurs today.

Jeremy Keith in a historically grounded evaluation of various current web-related topics (the segment on privacy at 18m 45s in the video):

In the past I would have said: we need to figure this out. We need to almost self-regulate, you know, before it’s too late. And at this point I think: no, it is too late, and regulation is coming. GDPR is a first step in that. And there will be more. And we deserve it.

We had our chance to figure this stuff out for ourselves and do the right thing and we blew it. And things are really bad when it comes to surveillance and tracking. A lot of the business models seem to be predicated on tracking.

A call-to-action by Heather Burns, with a great real-world analogy on the lack of legal training for web developers:

We are creating architects who have never heard of building codes, drivers who have never heard of the Highway Code, and doctors who have never heard of the Hippocratic oath.

A detailed post on the ACLU blog elaborates on why the technocratic dream of the cashless future is worth fighting against from a human rights perspective:

There are several reasons why cashless stores, and a cashless society more broadly, are a bad idea. Such stores are: Bad for privacy. […] Bad for low-income communities. […] Bad for people of color. […] Bad for the undocumented. […] Bad for many merchants. […] Less resilient. […]

In what he himself labels as a “rant”, Robin Rendle stresses the point that accessibility and performance on the web are not features, but the baseline:

I think it’s important to make note of Deb Chachra’s argument that “any sufficiently advanced negligence is indistinguishable from malice.” With that in mind, it’s not just bad software design and development if a website is slow. […] Instead we must start to see inaccessible and slow websites for what they are: a form of cruelty.

Ecological living should be framed as enriching, not limiting, says Kate Laffan:

The subjective wellbeing evidence gives us an opportunity to move our focus away from what people might have to give up or do without, and towards the potential gains of living not worse but differently.

A (more or less) weekly collection of inspiring, surprising or otherwise noteworthy texts, talks and podcasts. Usually around my core topics of usability, ethics, and digital society. Previous issues in the archive.

I'm Sebastian, Sociologist and Interaction Designer. This journal is mostly about bringing toge­ther social science and design for inclusive, privacy-focused, and sustainable "human-first" digital strategies. I also tend to a "digital garden" with carefully curated resources.

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