The chief executive of Adobe, a leading provider of software that tracks users across the internet, has warned it is “inexcusable” for companies not to be totally transparent with their users about following their online activities.
The US company is known for creating controversial “super cookies”, which are small files automatically downloaded by internet users when ads appear. They are difficult to remove and enable advertisers to record detailed web histories so that more targetted advertising and services can be delivered.
Speaking to The Australian Financial Review, Adobe System’s global chief executive Shantanu Narayen said internet users still cared about privacy despite the rise of social networking sites such as Facebook and Google+.
“I think it’s inexcusable for companies to do things without informing their customers about tracking or what they’re measuring,” he said. “So I think privacy continues to be really important and it’s paramount that companies recognise that.”
But he defended the tracking software as being important for allowing businesses to provide more personalised information to customers on mobile phones and websites.
“Remember we provide tools to other companies so it’s the companies that are using our tools,” he said. “I think Adobe has always been a company that puts trust first and foremost.”
Mr Narayen’s comments come as social networks face a rising backlash from users concerned that their data could be misused by companies or lost to hackers. US defence contractor Raytheon recently came under fire for creating a software tool that tracked the physical location and actions of individuals using the internet.
Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) executive officer Jon Lawrence said research showed most internet users did not want to be tracked by advertisers.
“It’s important there’s informed consent and it’s worth considering the European model where there are rules that say sites have to tell users when adding [tracking] cookies into their browsers,” he said. “There are some vendors that build opt-out into their systems ... and there’s a bit of an arms race on now between the people who make trackers and companies that make ad-blockers.”
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.