Bookmark: "Minimum Viable Data Collection"

Sebastian Greger


The question all website owners should be asking, is: do we really, really need these trackers to exist on our pages? Can’t we do the things we want to do without trackers?

Hidde de Vries presents simple thought exercises to reflect on tracking. He starts with establishing four reasons why website operators may engage in more tracking than is reasonable or needed and then suggests how to fix these. Paraphrasing:

  • Lack of awareness of the harm caused: Improve awareness, make clients and bosses aware of the harm.
  • User research: Use less invasive ways to research your users
  • Social media: Question the mainstream ways of sharing buttons and media embeds; use smarter techniques.
  • Data collection for marketing: Responsible conduct builds trust and may be worth more than the tracking-based data.

He then lists a range of sites and services that deliberately minimize their data collection and had good experiences with it. This – I’ve once called it “privacy-aware design” (has it really been eight years?) – actually works! It does not have a negative impact on user experience, and website operators are surprised how well they can do their thing with such “minimum viable data” approach (or MAD, the “minimum actionable dataset”).

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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