George Blake, former editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Fort Myers News-Press and Pacific Daily News, popped in to say hello and inform me, since leaving the newspaper business, he has launched two websites to address the growing concern over privacy issues on the Internet.
A little background. 73 percent of respondents in a survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, published in March, 2012 [See PDF Report] indicated they object to the invasion of privacy methods practiced by search engines; especially the way they track your searches and use that information to personalize your future search results. Another 68 percent in the survey objected to targeted advertising, because they don’t like having their online activity tracked and analyzed.
Responding to these privacy issues, and fully aware that thousands of companies make billions of dollars selling data about consumers without their consent or compensation, beginning in 2007, Blake became chairman and CEO of Pridatco Inc., which has launched two parent companies: Do Not Track US and Money For My Data.
Do Not Track US, a free service, allows users a method for removing tracking activity, including other surveillance and behavioral tracking by companies, websites, ISPs, (Internet Service Providers) ad networks and advertisers.
As explained on the company website, if consumers don’t want to be tracked or kept under surveillance over the Internet through their cell phone location data, users can opt-out of tracking and cell phone ads by joining the Do Not Track Registry, which operates much like the National Do Not Call Registry managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency to limit the telemarketing calls you receive. All that’s required for enrollment is an IP (Internet Provider) Address.
Pridatco’s efforts to limit tracking surveillance, according to Blake, is not without strong legal protection in the Bill of Rights to the Constitution with the 4th amendment (which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures) as well as a number of other amendments, including the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 9th, 10th and 14th.
Blake’s other website, Money for My Data, another free service, collects consumer data and profiles through surveys and various data collection practices. It then keeps this data safe under the stewardship of the consumer-members, which acts as the member’s authorized agent to package and sell the data for advertising while sharing the net profits with the member.
Blake was editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer from 1980 through 1992. He then served as the paper’s vice president for community affairs until December, 2000. From 1995 through 2000 he was president of the Ohio Newspaper Association; and from 2001 through 2007 served as Chairman and President of Brandwatch Technologies, a company which develops devices for product and document security and counterfeit detection.
Prior to being named editor at the Enquirer, Blake was executive editor at the Fort Myers News-Press and Pacific Daily News in Guam, while serving as vice president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors from 1977 through 1980.
In addition to his pioneering efforts with privacy websites, from 2008 through 2012, Blake served as chief news officer of OurTown.com , a searchable and trackable hyper-local news and community information gateway from more than 70,000 locations and neighborhoods. Our Town provides community members with a one-stop-shop for news, content and information focused on their local community. The site offers articles on a variety of topics, along with calendars, message forums, and an updated business directory. It has additionally licensed more than 1,000 local editors, who provide local news and sell advertising.
When asked about the current financial crisis impacting the newspaper industry, especially the way employees are being thrown overboard at alarming rates, this former executive editor with over 20 years of experience in the news business, told me: ``I assume newspapers will reach a point at which news staffing is stable and editors may allocate personnel in a manner that allows the best coverage within those limits. It won't ever go back to the pre-internet days, but coverage still will be meaningful. I'd even like to think people will be willing to pay for online news sites, and even think there might be a market for hyperlocal paywalls -- but that's a big step that might not be taken for a few years.’’
Despite forecasting calmer waters amid the choppy seas of the newspaper industry, Blake’s heart nonetheless aches seeing the loss of so many talented journalists. `` I always thought our news staffs were the best and brightest: committed, hard-working, caring folks who will find new successes. I wish them well.’’
A Wheeling (West Virginia) Jesuit University graduate, where he earned a degree in economics, Blake has lived the past 10 years in Atlanta with his wife Christine and daughter Carlin.
August 6, 2012