April Do Not Track News Updates

Casey BartoThere have been some new developments on the online privacy front in Washington since my last Do Not Track news update In March, the Obama administration asked Congress to pass a “Privacy Bill of Rights.” The proposed bill of rights would supposedly protect consumers from “intrusive” data gathering, a concern that is top of mind for many.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the government wants new rules concerning Do Not Track to be easily enforceable and may expand the authority of the FTC.

Several browsers, including the latest versions of Firefox and Internet Explorer have introduced do not track features within the last month. The features work by indicating to a website whether the visitor wishes to have their movements tracked online. The latest version of Internet Explorer boasts a feature that supposedly forcibly blocks tracking from any unapproved sites. (Check back here in the next week for a post by Chris on the Do Not Track features in IE9.)

In an opinion piece in AdAge, FTC Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch clarifies that the concept of Do Not Track has not been endorsed or even properly vetted by the FTC. Rosch notes that there is an array of consequences to keep in mind if a consumer adopts a Do Not Track mechanism (like the features in Firefox or IE9, for example.)

“To begin with,” Rosch writes, “a consumer may sacrifice being served relevant advertising. On a related note, there is academic research suggesting that in order to compensate for the loss of the ability to track consumer behavior and the associated ability to serve relevant advertising, advertisers may need to turn to advertising that is more ‘obtrusive’ in order to attract consumers’ attention.”

He also points out that the widespread adoption of overly broad Do Not Track mechanisms might lead to a reduction in free content and innovations “across the entire Internet economy.” Read the rest of his thoughts on the Do Not Track proposal here.

What are your thoughts on Rosch’s opinion? Do you agree/disagree?

3 Comments

  1. Mark Sargeant
    Posted April 11, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    It seems like this would be a very bad thing for a number of online industries. Without the ability to track, we not only lose well-targeted advertising but the ability to attribute conversions to any number of marketing campaigns. Take away addressibility and the web would have to revert to a very costly and inefficient version of statistical polling like traditional media has done for the past 50 years.

    There is a big difference between intrusive tracking (third party cookies) and business intelligence (analytics beacons and first party cookies). Hopefully the powers that be understand these differences and will do what’s right for online industry and the economy as a whole, which is ever more dependent upon this technology and the services that it yields.

    Thanks Casey and everyone at The Lunch Pail for all of your great posts!

  2. Lesley
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Casey, thanks for passing this along! I feel many consumers and members of congress do not understand the what is being tracked, they only see the negative light and not the positives that tracking offers them. I think that mandating the “do not track” would really be a huge let down for the entire industry, and lots of consumers would be unsatisfied with their online experience.

    • Casey Barto
      Posted April 12, 2011 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      Thanks Mark and Lesley for sharing your thoughts.

      I agree with both of you that it seems like there is little understanding of how the technology works and what is being tracked.

      It will be very interesting to see how this evolves.

      Thanks for reading!


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  1. […] Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011 No sooner did I provide a roundup of Do Not Track news, than did Senators John Kerry and John McCain introduce a new privacy bill aimed at addressing the […]

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