Posted November 2, 2007 12:03 am by with 6 comments

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As Andy already reported, organizations from consumer, privacy, and technology groups recently proposed the development of a “do not track” list in hopes of providing consumers the ability to prevent advertising networks from being able to track which websites consumers are visiting. The proposed “do not track” list was based on the idea of and is being compared to the “do not call” list that the FTC implemented in 2003 with significant success.

Conceptually the idea seems acceptable but the truth is it also seems extremely unrealistic. The following information is quoted directly from the proposal:

”Companies providing web, video, and other forms of browser applications should provide functionality (i.e., a browser feature, plug-in, or extension) that allows users to import or otherwise use the “do not track” list of domain names, keep the list up-to-date, and block domains on the list from tracking their internet activity.”

It seems to me that the coalition doesn’t want the consumers to have to make any effort to protect themselves but rather push the burden back on the businesses meeting the demand of the consumers.

When the “do not call” list was implemented the burden of having to comply with that ruling was not one felt by all nearly all businesses but rather a small few whose businesses themselves were directly and often overwhelming invading in an uncontrolled way the consumers way of life. This is just not the case with web based companies.

In my mind consumers have the right to visit or not visit a website as they see fit. Consumers already have protections, some provided directly from advertising organizations, as well as browser based security protections, and anti virus options to keep cookies, software, and other unwanted materials off of their systems.

Not being technical and or not being web savvy enough to protect one’s information doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to want to pass legislation to bring the federal government into the online advertising arena and allow them to dictate for the perceived benefit of the consumer what and or what types of surfing information an advertising network may collect. What do you think?

  • Does this affect the ads in Gmail?

    Targeted ads aren’t really a problem because only you can see the ads that were based off your data.

  • i dont think so

  • These privacy groups seem to not know the difference between apples and oranges. Buying your direct phone number from another source and then calling you personally to try and sell you person to person is no where close to the same thing as voluntarily going to a business’s web property and having cookies set to remember settings to provide functionality. And yes, targeted ads are functionality, what, you’d rather get random irrelevant ads? People go all tin foil hat over this stuff and it’s dumb. Using IP#’s or cookies is not an invasion of privacy and you already have all the tools you need to stop even that if you are a freak and worried about people giving you “targeted ads” (gasp, the horror!)

    If moronic tendencies prevail and this thing becomes a reality, then all that will be accomplished is the gathering of the largest list of techno-dunces to date.

  • I agree the plan is ill-conceived, but I do think the concept is good. I have no problem not being tracked myself. I know how to delete cookies and I know how to surf through an anonymous proxy. The average web user doesn’t.

    The average web user doesn’t want to be tracked either. The concept of being able to opt out of being tracked is a good one, but the implementation probably isn’t going to work.

  • I think the average user doesn’t understand what those in the web word called “tracking” really is and they envision some trenchcoated guy sneaking around taking pictures of them. Nobody cares about you as an individual, that information is statistically irrelevant to an advertiser. All they want to track is general trends and patterns so they can make decisions based on optimum results. I don’t care if Joe Bob looks at RC cars as well buys subscriptions to Cat Fancy. I do care if 80% of my traffic is coming from a particular source, or that 35% of people who look at a certain page end up leaving the site afterwards.

    The most specific people get is targeted advertising and quite honestly, I want all the targeted advertiser I can get. If I never see another commercial for some product I have no use for and would never care about I’d be a happy man. I’d totally fill out a survey at my cable provider if they can just block any commercial that starts with “have you ever had that not so fresh…” or any Old Navy commercial period.

    Maybe we should just change the terminology to “trending”, tell people sites have stopped “tracking” visitors and we can put the silliness to bed.

  • Your last paragraph hits the nail on the head. Government should not be involved at this level of interaction between its citizens and the websites they choose to visit.

    Web users have multiple options for remaining anonymous while surfing. Why not just promote the existing tools that gives the control to the end user on a site-by-site basis? Maybe I want to know my history, but not any other site. This won’t be possible with the proposed solution that doesn’t differentiate between sites.

    Unfortunately it boils down to two factors:

    1. Ignorance and/or misinformation among the general internet population.
    2. The lack of personal responsibility for controlling one’s own communications.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. From a marketer’s perspective it would benefit us to start educating web users about the existing products, technologies and services that can have the same effects as the “do not track” list, but on a “pull” rather than a “push” basis.