Spy-Pixels – Should they be able to track without consent?

Formatted emails with links look good and track a lot! To stop the tracking, set your email client to not download remote images/content or select the email client in text mode. It will change your reading experience, though.

Email marketing relies on “spy-pixels”, and modern email-based customer journey orchestration is built on these GIF or PNG files as small as 1×1 pixels and placed somewhere in the email. You literally won’t be able to see or even get to click on them.

It has been an accepted, if somewhat not fully understood, practice. Data protection regulations focus on consent, or lack of it is beginning to get noticed even in this practice.

As a sender, you have the option of requesting read/delivery receipts from the recipient. But they have the opportunity to deny it. This is where HTML, with its formatting options, helps remove this option or consent. Embedding images and stylesheets into the email becomes possible. They are downloaded when the user reads an email. Open rates, devices and even rough physical location is possible to be deduced and if the email has links then interest profiles are deduced as well.

So the question of consent comes into focus. Should the service provider ask for permission? Some are approaching it from a perspective of policy/compliance and while others are thinking about privacy-protecting experiences.

Augmented reality – AR Contacts, Mars Rover and more

  1. AR Contacts Lens is likely to be available for testing later this year and is expected to be tried by people with visual impairment. Mojo Vision has created a prototype that contains an image sensor, display, motion sensors and even wireless radios.
  2. You can see through Perseverance rover Mars Rover’s eyes and even take selfies with it. It’s a collaboration between NASA and National Geographic.
  3. Remote laundry guidance solutions by Electrolux: The technician and customer can share the same view, not their device. Apparently, this contactless experience has significant advantages over a standard video call.
  4. Packaging QR code starts the AR experience: – You simply scan the code on your Amazon package and potentially make some exciting experiences.
  5. The idea of trying the Nike Diors on AR is intriguing! 200 beauty brands have uploaded thousands of SKUs on the platform. Plus Ikea turns decluttering into a game with an escape room.
  6. AR can create exciting new opportunities for expression. Imagine a painting or sculpture in your own home is one way. Another is to make AR installations in other public spaces and more! According to artist Cao Fei, AR art is portable and shareable.

Video surveillance, video analytics and culture

Do video cameras improve safety? There are many reasons to answer in the affirmative!

  1. Public spaces, offices, homes and playgrounds, shopping zones and more continue to see rapid installations, unified by the belief that security improves. But if there are videos, there then needs to be analytics and well…. deep-learning analytics. Security is one aspect, but what about emotion analytics of your store visit or your social media post?
  2. The camera looking at you also makes judgments about your environment, emotions, purchases, and more…. some might be ok with it. This kind of analysis is a growing market with service providers at all ends of the spectrum.
  3. The news of company breaches is all too common. The latest being the video surveillance company whose security feed streams were accessed and possibly video data exfiltrated.
  4. I often think about how A/B testing approaches gets that desired click. Add the element of emotion tracking in AR/VR/Videos, and it makes for an uncomfortable scenario envisioning all this.

The safety experience needs a comprehensive assessment and thinking through.

How many extensions have you installed on your browser?

They can be a bit of a safety risk!

The browser is the primary destination for most users. Sign up for a specific service, and you can do most of the things required in the world of work and play. For every esoteric functionality, there probably is a browser extension. Large companies make some extensions, and these tend to add an improved experience to the core web service.

Most extensions are developed by individuals with an open-source model of transparency. Successful extensions may eventually have millions of downloads, but managing them may take resources that the original developer does not have. The question of monetisation comes up. Some grapple with ads or they sell the extension.

The recent examples of Great Suspender utility for Chrome and ModHeader focus on the security and safety issues that have cropped up. Code injection, unauthorised ads and even data exfiltration are some of the immediate concerns.

Suggestion: Check the extensions installed in your browser and evaluate if you need them all. Remove the ones that are superfluous and be very circumspect about installing news ones too.

Favicon functionality misuse for ad tracking

The ad tech world seems to have figured out some ways of misusing the browser’s favicon functionality, and it’s important that you know this.

Favicon is the icon you see in browser tabs, site recommendations and more. They make it easy to recognise your tabs and switch. Now, this feature has got the attention of people who would rather use it to bypass the user’s tracking preferences!

Favicon stores the image of a visited site in a perpetual cache. It is different from the browser cache as even if the customer clears the visited history cache, this remains.

Currently, through some workaround, the ad tech folks can track site visits and then in subsequent site visits, browser tracking / fingerprinting protections seem to have been bypassed.

Browsers will need to address this issue and treat this as a vulnerability in their safety process. Brave has already updated their browser.

Consent frameworks stand ignored, and that in itself is a significant safety issue. #SafetyCX

Do see the research paper and related coverage for more insights.