Every click you make: “Do not track” proposal

26 Feb

From AdAge (     …the online ad) industry is carefully parsing comments made by Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz, who told members of the Senate Commerce Committee in a hearing Tuesday that “we are gravitating to an opt-out of behavioral targeting [for multiple sites] through a single entity.”

It’s much like the “Do Not Call” registry, where you sign up to prevent marketing calls. The FTC’s “Do Not Track” list proposes to keep your surfing safe from Web marketers.  Marketers who want to know the what, where, when, how, and possibly why, of your exploration. Every link you click, every move you make, to create behavioral marketing, or ad serving. Marketers, such as Amazon and Google, collect your personal information and tastes to target advertising specifically to you. This isn’t necessarily the ads that flash on sites such as Yahoo.  Personally, as long as these aren’t gathering info, I can ignore them much like I ignore the TV commercials.

The FTC intends the registry to protect consumer privacy from the “behavioral marketing.” Last December before Congress, the FTC testified: The most practical way to do that “would likely involve placing a setting similar to a persistent cookie on a consumer’s browser, and conveying that setting to sites that the browser visits, to signal whether the consumer agrees to tracking or receiving targeted advertisements.”  

Don’t get excited about the any monumental changes across the industry. The FTC started this discussion last summer. So, far all they’ve issued is a report. They haven’t even decided if it should legislative or self-regulatory. Additionally, it’s an opt-out system. If it had real teeth, it would be an opt-in.  The marketers will argue that consumers benefit from all this tracking.  Thanks, but let me decide if I want the benefit. Although, since behavioral marketing isn’t inherently bad, the proposal does allow consumers “to choose certain types of advertising they wish to receive or data they are willing to have collected about them.” Additionally, all the while: “it should not undermine the benefits online behavioral advertising provides consumers, including funding content and services.” The proposal even suggests a fine for marketer’s violations. Entities such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo do offer a choice to opt-out of ad targeting. Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer9 and Google Chrome browsers include an actual “Do Not Track” option.You just have to figure out how to do it. In Google, you select “Tools”, then “Extensions.” This brings up a whole page of offerings. Rather than look for it, type “Do Not Track” (less quotes) into the search box on this page, which will bring you up slightly fewer offerings. You should find the “Do Not Track” feature before you’re halfway down this page. Google’s is labeled “Keep My Opt-Outs.”

Many marketers (e.g. Direct Marketing Association) oppose a broad reform and are carefully watching how this unfolds. They are ready to pounce believing  that these measures will hurt the economy, commerce and the consumer’s benefit from the internet more than providing consumer protection. Of course, it will hurt them most of all since ad serving is a financially lucrative device for marketers. Keep in mind that the banks and financial institutions could, and still do, defend their practices as they screwed us over.

That’s not to say: pass the legislation or get out the KY gel, but it’s certainly time to pay attention to the issue. Most of us don’t mind if a retailer we frequent alerts us to a special on an item that interests us. However, let us decide what we want to share with you.  Let us tell you we want the alerts. Let us invite you into our domain. California got it right when they passed the Opt-in Law.  Unless we opt-in to whatever you’re selling, then don’t bother us. The banks, credit card companies, retail establishments and other businesses would have plenty of people who would opt-in, just because.  But if not, then businesses should get their ad agencies and/or marketing departments cracking on some creative ways to interest the masses.

If you marketers can’t figure out how to do business on those terms, then you’re woefully overselling your inventiveness and innovation.

Read the FTC privacy report here (

  © 2011    Check out more Consumer articles here:

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Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Consumer, Uncategorized


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