Posted July 28, 2010 8:13 am by with 1 comment

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Don’t think that just because Facebook has managed to not completely trample people’s privacy as of late that there is not more activity around the subject. In fact, forces in Washington, this time the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), are speaking at ‘hearings’ that are looking into this issue right now with talk of a “do not track” list. This is not the first time the subject has been raised (2007 it got some attention) but in light of recent online privacy ‘dust-ups’, this idea may have a real chance to develop.

MediaPost reports

The Federal Trade Commission is considering proposing a do-not-track mechanism that would allow consumers to easily opt out of all behavioral targeting, chairman Jon Leibowitz told lawmakers on Tuesday.

Testifying at a hearing about online privacy, Leibowitz said the FTC is exploring the feasibility of a browser plug-in that would store users’ targeting preferences. He added that either the FTC or a private group could run the system.

I have to admit that “do not call” list for telemarketers has made life better for me at least, although I am seeing more and more attempts to ‘get around’ that mechanism as of late. I am not sure what would happen as a result of a “do not track” list but many consumers may find it interesting just because of their experience with its offline cousin.

This is not the kind of talk that the advertising industry wants to hear though, so expect a fight especially if the oversight of any kind of list is left up to the FTC. In fact, the advertising industry is starting to show plenty of signs of the need to ‘self-police’ to keep these kinds of talks and options out of the public forum.

The FTC chairman also noted that he was in favor of an opt-in mentality rather than the existing opt-out and that idea has considerable support from others in power.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) both expressed concern that privacy policies weren’t giving Web users enough useful information about online ad practices.

Rockefeller proposed that some companies were burying too much information in lengthy documents that consumers don’t read. “Some would say the fine print is there and it’s not our fault you didn’t read it,” he said, adding, “I say, that’s a 19th-century mentality.”

Kerry added that he didn’t know that consumers understood how companies use data. “I’m not sure that there’s knowledge in the caveat emptor component of this,” he said.

Wow, Sen. Rockefeller just tossed the advertising business so far into the past regarding their practices that the 20th century was ignored. I guess he made his point.

So where do you stand on the possibility of a “do not track” list? Is this something that could hurt the online advertising industry or is it just a way for politicians to say that they are doing something about online privacy?

  • This goes hand-in-hand with your other post on whether or not users would pay for Twitter. Companies offer a free service and use it to collect info about us and then return ads that can make them money. Frankly, I’m okay with that.

    I can more easily ignore an annoying ad than an annoying phone call. The ad I just move my attention elsewhere, the call actually rings and uses up my phone until they go away.