Do Not Track Me
The Federal Trade Commission’s proposed Do Not Track system is justified in that it would block intrusive marketing and ad campaigns and protect consumer privacy. Pro or con?
Pro: Get Your Nose out of My Data
Just as most consumers can no longer repair their own automobiles, very few of us really understand what’s happening "under the hood" every time we click to make a purchase, send a message, or play a video on the Internet.
But the companies that provide behavioral tracking services do, and they use that knowledge to collect personal and private data and build detailed profiles of our online habits and preferences. While Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has pushed the marketing and advertising industries toward self-regulation, its recent call for a Do Not Track system serves as evidence enough that we need enforced regulation to protect our privacy.
The FTC’s latest report on consumer privacy takes a great leap in putting consumers back in control of their personal privacy. If enacted, the recommendations will: 1) make privacy protection a more important part of business process; 2) require greater transparency about information the data companies are collecting and exactly what they’re doing with it; and 3) enable consumers to control their own privacy via a Do Not Track system.
Adopting the FTC privacy recommendations, including the Do Not Track system, will help protect online privacy as the Internet evolves and becomes an even more integral part of our personal and business lives.
Con: Tracking Has a Plus Side
Industry can protect consumers’ privacy without legislation or further governmental oversight and expense.
Last year, the Federal Trade Commission set out clear goals for self-regulation in the area of online behavioral advertising. America’s businesses have responded. With the inception of the www.AboutAds.info program, the Advertising Icon Option will be served on some 5 billion ads. With a click or two, consumers can opt out of some or all interest-based ads. Paid for entirely by the business community, the program places no burden on taxpayers—a significant difference from any government-run program.
In addition to leaving money in taxpayers’ hands, self-regulation allows consumers to continue enjoying the benefits of the free economy. In the past 15 years, the information economy has revolutionized the world. Without the ongoing support of an ever-improving advertising infrastructure, consumers would no longer receive relevant and useful offers or enjoy free content and services across the Internet.
At this point, it is still unclear exactly what the FTC means by "Do Not Track." On the other hand, having spent the better part of the past year developing a system to provide real and meaningful choice to consumers about whether they receive personalized ads on the Internet, I can say with certainty that business is safeguarding consumers’ privacy while protecting the economic interests of all Americans.